High School to Art School students build portfolios

High School to Art School students build portfolios
Shannon Baatz (l.), 15, of Breezy Point and Lina Riveros (r.), 15, of Queens Village, make sculptures during the Queens Council on the Arts’ High School to Art School Summer Portfolio Development Program at the Rockaway Center for the Arts. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

High school juniors and seniors with a passion for art were meticulously molding sculptures inside a studio in Floyd Bennett Field last week as part of a free program that gives students a leg up on art school over their peers.

Last week marked the end to the summer session of the Queens Council on the Arts' High School to Art School program, now in its ninth year.

Yeon Ji Yoo, the program's instructor, said the six-week classes teach the students – who came from the Rockaways, Elmhurst, Whitestone, Jamaica Hills, Fresh Meadows, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Brooklyn and Manhattan – fundamental concepts in art that they will need for college.

Some of those skills include gesture drawings — or sketching a live model — and structural drawings, like learning how to accurately sketch a face.

“They need to know all of these for art school,” Yoo said. “Everything that they're doing, we have to make sure it's from observation.”

Stephanie Zepeda, a 16-year-old incoming senior at St. John's Prep from Elmhurst, said she is interested in attending Cooper Union for interior design, but needs an art portfolio before being accepted.

“I took art classes in school, but it wasn't the same as this,” she said, referring to the Rockaway program. “This is more developing.”

The assignment Aug. 6 — the next to last day of the program — was for students to create sculptures based on their interpretations of cancer.

Before digging into the project, Yoo first taught the students about the science behind the disease.

“If they encounter 3-D design [in college], they have to understand the form of it as well as the skin,” Yoo explained.

The students worked with a material called celluclay to build their sculptures.

Graham Ballard, a 17-year-old who bicycles from his Manhattan home to attend the program, said his sculpture was “kind of like an oozing blob of tumor.”

Mario Villacreses, a 17-year-old Jamaica Hills resident and incoming senior at St. Francis Prep, said his “represents slime being unleashed, untamed — which is why I have it coming out of a cage.”

Ballard said he has seen a difference in his abilities since he started with the program.

“It improved my overall art skills,” he said. “I'm always improving my art, but it's kind of nice to see it in an art setting.”

He said the program was of “much higher quality than an average high school class. It's a different method of teaching.”

Michael Russo, a 16-year-old student at St. Francis Prep, agreed.

“I feel like I learned a lot of technique and I acquired an appreciation for fine arts,” said Russo, who wants to be a fashion designer and needs a fine arts portfolio for college admission.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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