Special Studies: New York City Art Tour

by Julia Thompson and Gabby Gomez

One of the most highly anticipated Special Studies trips of the 2015- 2016 year has definitely been the Photography & Art Study Tour of New York City. Led by Nancy Corbin along with Donlyn Aiken, Travis Burnham, Paige Phillips, thirty-four Upper Schoolers seized the opportunity to enrich themselves in the lively bustle of one of the most renowned art centers in the world.

On Monday, we woke up bright and early to make our way to the school to begin our trip to New York City. As soon as the plane landed, the tour began. The first tour in the city was the Graff Tour. This walking tour took us around looking at the graffiti on the streets of New York City. The Graff Tour company spends their time educating people on the origins of the graffiti and the modern graffiti artists. We also had the rare experience of testing out our graffiti skills while on this tour.

On Tuesday, we experienced our first museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art. This museum features all American artists and was a fabulous introduction into our experience of New York City art museums. In this museum, we had a guided tour during the museum’s closed hours which gave us an opportunity to have a more intimate experience in the museum. From there, we walked the New York City Highline to lunch at Chelsea Market. The Highline is a raised garden that has an absolutely amazing view of the Hudson River. Tuesday was such a beautiful day, so it was the perfect time to walk the Highline. After lunch and free time at Chelsea Market, we took taxis to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET). The MET has a fantastic collection of art from all eras which we were able to explore on our own. This free time to explore the museum allowed us to discuss with classmates or independently experience the renowned collection The MET has to offer. Matthew Poliakoff, a senior, shared his remarks about The MET:

“The MET was my favorite museum- the number of works across all the historical periods and regions was especially impressive, and they had Van Gogh, who’s my favorite painter.”

After The MET, we saw our first Broadway show, Matilda. This fun and playful show had wonderful music and plenty of humor to get us all laughing.

On Wednesday, our first stop was the Guggenheim Museum. At the Guggenheim, we had a guided tour focusing on the exhibition by Peter Fischli and David Weiss. After this tour we were able to make clay pieces of our own inspired by what we saw. After the Guggenheim we went to the Frick Collection at the former home of Henry Clay Frick, a rich fuel company owner in the 1870s. At this museum we were able to experience the beautiful home of Mr. Frick while taking in amazing pieces created by renowned artists that impressed us all.

The student group posing with graffiti artists
The student group posing with graffiti, spray paint in hand

On Wednesday night, we went to see comedian, Mike Birbiglia’s show Thank God For Jokes. Mike Birbiglia had us all laughing out loud and on the edge of our seats. On Thursday, we started off the day by taking the subway to The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. At the church we took a vertical tour taking stairs up through the structure’s buttresses getting so see the architecture from many different perspectives. Once we got to the top, we were able to walk on the outside roof of the church to see an absolutely stunning view of New York City. Next, we went to The Cloisters. This museum holds many Medieval pieces in a breathtakingly beautiful building. On our last night in New York City, we had a big group meal followed by the renowned Broadway show, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This show was incredible, moving, and blew us all away. Maddie Mitchell, a sophomore had this to say about the show:

“I found The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time inspirational because it’s depth and character analysis was beyond anything I have ever experienced.”

On Friday, our last day in New York City, we went to MoMA. At MoMA we had a guided tour and discussed many famous modern and contemporary pieces as well as having free time to explore the museum. After spending a couple of hours taking in the amazing pieces housed in the MoMA, we had some free time to shop around and explore the city during our last few hours in New York. After free time it was time for us all to regroup and head to the airport. The trip to New York City was a wonderful opportunity to experience the culture and art of a big city, while bonding with our classmates and teachers making memories to last a lifetime.

With so many esteemed and established museums, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET), the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Whitney Museum of American Art, and many more, New York City exposed us to familiar and famous works that were thoroughly analyzed and discussed in the classroom, such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night which had been a hallmark of Post Impressionist work, or the pieces of Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Helen Frankenthaler, who were vanguards of the Abstract Expressionism period. Seeing a celebrated painting or sculpture by such illustrious artists in person rather than in a small, printed picture in a text book was especially exciting and offered a personal and new perspective.

frankenthaler sig.JPG
The signature of the Color Field artist Helen Frankenthaler

Between time with experienced guides and studying works alone, we were able to explore the expansive galleries, whether it was the airy Greek and Roman sculpture room of The MET or the MoMA’s Contemporary gallery with works from 1980 to present time. Noah Ballenger, a junior, recalled his experience:

“There was an incredible abundance of recognizable works diffused throughout our experiences in each of the varying museums. This alone lead to a higher appreciation of the trip as a whole. Even if you didn’t know a piece or artist’s significance, in many cases, someone else did, and they were more than happy to share.”


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