An artist whose highly stylized faces and flowing hair are signatures of her work guided students at Peekskill High School in creating a massive mural along the building’s exterior 77-foot wall. The wall served as the canvas where students spray painted and painted images of ‘their’ Peekskill. About 100 students in art classes were asked “What do you want to be represented?” They came up with sketches under the tutelage of Alice Mizrachi who is associated with the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art on Main Street. Mizrachi has created murals throughout the United States.
PHS art teacher Elizabeth Tabone along with the high school’s other art teachers Heather Brown and Nicole Kossowsky worked with the students in their advanced and portfolio classes during April, May and June.
High school and district administration officials were involved in the project to use the unobstructed space along the walkway that faces Wells Street. Not only did the principal and board of education give permission for the mural but the superintendent and principal contributed the words that run along the bottom of the work.
Superintendent David Mauricio’s quote “Greatness is within me” emanates from the female’s wavy hair. And PHS principal Rodney Arthur’s “Building Bridges of Excellence” slogan is contained at the end of the woman’s hair.
Artist Alice Mizrachi’s work explores the interconnectedness of individuals and community through the dual lens of compassion and empathy. That compassion and empathy was evident when the students decided to include a reference to members of the LGBT community by adding a rainbow into the drawing. Students also wanted a yellow brick road in the mural as a way to reference that bit of Peekskill history.
Video showing students creating the mural, filmed by art teacher Nicole Kossowsky.
(It’s believed that Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum, who attended Peekskill Military Academy, got the idea for his legendary walkway from his time in Peekskill.) The students decided to include the new fire station on Main and Broad streets in the section that contains buildings. The image of the older student and the younger one represents what students feel is the support and nurturance they receive in the district.
The Peekskill City School district participates in an Artist in Residency program with MOCA that encourages students to work and learn from professional artists. An encounter with world renown artist Peter Bynum during a Riverfront Green high school art intensive lesson on open air landscape drawing led to a tour of his studio. Bynum is the creator of the ten 23 x 16 foot canvases that fill the arches supporting Route 9 on Water Street. His artistic style involves a controlled paint pour onto glass followed by compression of the paint with the compression yielding amorphous imagery. Working with Bynum, the students in 2016 and 2017 created a collaborative art work reflecting the forms and rhythms of life. That piece is installed in the lobby of the high school.
There are other murals hanging on the walls of the high school as well. In creating these pieces students learn the difference between street art (commissioned and legal) and graffiti which is vandalism.
Another work students in the high school collaborated on with artist Magali Duzant shows three digital prints on aluminum. “A Gesture, A Sign” was taken with students using clamp lights to mimic the setup of a photo studio in order to create sets of personalized alphabets in American Sign Languages. The first image is a key to interpret the signs. The second image reads: You don’t have to be great to start. You just have to start being great. The third one reads: If you’re reading this you’re probably late for class.