Our Youth

Students from St. Andrew Avellino Get Their Art On

Susan DeLeon, the art teacher at St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy, poses at a scene of “Snow White” exhbit that the seventh-grade class worked on all year. Photo: Antonina Zielinska)

Young artists from St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy dazzled members of their community with whimsical displays and extraordinary works of art during their annual art show June 1 at the school in Flushing.

Paper dogs, life-like Oompa Loompas and delicious-looking food replicas all stood on carefully crafted displays admired by fellow students, parents, parishioners and curious minds from the neighborhood.

Each display was made by a collective grade; individual names of the artists did not appear. The students worked on the projects throughout the year and saw the fruit of their labor as a masterpiece.

Seventh-grader Alexa Piotrowski was tasked with taking the lead on the grand display this year.

Each year the seventh grade after-school art program takes the whole year to create the centerpiece of the art show. The seventh-graders wanted to outdo last year’s class, so they convinced the school’s art teacher, Susan DeLeon, to let them make five scenes. Last year the seventh-graders made four.

This year’s theme was “Snow White.” The project wasn’t easy, Piotrowski admits. The grade schoolers looked at different books to gain inspiration and designed the layout of each scene. They decided which student would make which character. That was more difficult. Students had their favorites, and it was hard to find compromises. Like a good project manager, Piotrowski listened to all sides and found solutions.

The final project was well worth the effort, Piotrowski said at the exhibit.

The exhibit itself was the painstakingly set up by DeLeon and two of her friends, who took two days off from work to help. They set up each display, hung artwork from the walls and made sure each detail was just right.

The principal, Deborah Hannah, was at the exhibit greeting each visitor with a smile. She said she is grateful to have DeLeon and her passion for the arts and the students at the school, and said she could never cut art funding. It is too integral to the school.

The school recently received a $100,000 grant from the Diocese of Brooklyn for its arts program, half of which will go to the visual art program and half to the music program.

Marizeth Murphy, whose son, Denis, is part of the after-school art program, said she is thrilled that her son has developed an interest in art. He enjoys it, and it expands his mind and imagination, Murphy said.

DeLeon said some students who may struggle in other subjects may find confidence in the art room. Art also helps students in subjects by forcing their mind to be more flexible.“It taps the corners of their imagination,” DeLeon said.

Appreciation of diversity is at the heart of DeLeon’s teaching. She wants to help students appreciate the uniqueness of each person and the uniqueness of different peoples and cultures around the world. To that end, she has helped students make displays based on the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead.

DeLeon also takes time to cook with the students to show them different foods and tastes. She wants them to engage all their senses.

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