Students see themselves as Readers & Creators

Fifth graders visit the Art of Jerry Pinkney at Katonah Museum of Art

Three fifth graders stood in front of Jerry Pinkney’s vivid watercolor of the Little Mermaid—his reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's classic—taking in the blue green of the sea, the splashes of water as she surfaces, and her radiant smile.

“It’s more realistic,” said one. “The Disney mermaid has red hair.” Pinkney had also created a mermaid of color.

“HIs life’s dedication was to make books that represented the African American community,” said the docent.

Docent-led tours add depth and engagement

A vibrant lesson in history and equity

All of Katonah-Lewisboro’s fifth graders visited Tenacity & Resilience: The Art of Jerry Pinkney at the Katonah Museum of Art this winter. Viewing the work of the legendary artist would be powerful at any time. After classroom discussions focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and with the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr’s life just around the corner, the late artist’s work held even greater impact for students.

original art, up close

Librarians gave the groundwork

“We’ll use the show as a jumping off point in our Civil Rights unit,” said Mark Grossman, a fifth- grade teacher at Meadow Pond Elementary who was there with his students.

Jeanne Hand, Katonah Elementary’s librarian, had reviewed several of Pinkney’s most famous books ahead of time with the fifth graders, preparing them to get the most from the exhibition. They discussed the stories Pinkney choose to tell—of the feats of Harriet Tubman and the oratory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as classic stories recast with BIPOC characters, highlighting his recurring themes of resilience, courage and aspiration.

working with Pinkney's own words

Students were able to see themselves as creators, too, in Pinkney’s tradition of painting illustrations that add meaning to an important message. Sitting around tables in the museum’s workshop space, they were each given a phrase from Pinkney’s writings to illustrate.

Alexa received: She was a sunflower rising up, up, up.
Calder picked: When we get together, we celebrate.
Audrey painted: Just keep walking straight and you’ll make it.

They were immediately absorbed in colors and concepts, like Pinkney, tapping their imaginations to paint an idea that would bring meaning to others.

STudents work in the Pinkney tradition