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NEW YORK—Students in ten New York City public middle schools from all five boroughs are hard at work on their public art works—school lunchroom tables transformed into colorful works of art that address important social issues in their communities and the world. These works will be displayed in the largest student art exhibition in the history of NYC parks and the first to span five boroughs, created by Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (LeAp) in cooperation with NYC Parks & Recreation.

The tables will be showcased as part of  “A View from the Lunchroom: Students Bringing Issues to the Table,” an exhibition launched at Union Square Park on Thursday, April 29th 12:00pm and then installed in ten community parks across the five boroughs. Developed by LeAp’s Public Art Program, this third-annual citywide exhibition seeks to empower young people to have a voice in their communities—speaking out on issues such as gangs, violence, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and cultural diversity, among others—and become catalysts for social change through their art. Lunchroom tables are used as a canvas for this project as a symbol of student ideas and conversations.

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LeAp teaching artists are currently in the schools working with students to explore the issues, study public art, and ultimately create beautiful and meaningful works of art for public display. In addition, internationally-renowned Guest Artists Christo, Chuck Close, Dennis Oppenheim, Audrey Flack, Tom Otterness, Vito Acconci, Alice Aycock, Emma Amos, Keith Sonnier and Julie Heffernan met with students to discuss their work and the power and impact of art.

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Students at Accion Academy in the Bronx are addressing issues of gangs, drugs and violence through creating a beautiful mural incorporating collaged images. IS 291’s students in Brooklyn, are presenting issues of teen pregnancy and drive-by violence in their neighborhood through creating a table of hope with a colorful mural. Meanwhile, at IS 51 in Staten Island, students are examining the need to take care of our planet and students at P 75 in Queens are addressing healthcare through a dynamic painting.

“LEAP’s Public Art Program nurtures our students’ artistic talents while providing an extraordinary opportunity for young people to share their views on important social issues with the entire New York City community,” said Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. “We expect all of our schools to offer students rich and rigorous arts instruction, but it is through partnerships with outstanding organizations like LEAP that our schools are able to provide world-class arts programs that allow students to take advantage of the unparalleled cultural resources of this City and to meet and work with renowned artists like Christo and Chuck Close.”

“We are proud to be a part of the LEAP’s Public Art program, which gives our young people an opportunity to speak out on the important issues affecting their communities,” said Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott. “This program provides a great platform for us to hear what the future generations have to say.”

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“Once again New York City’s schoolchildren will become the city’s youngest public artists this summer, thanks to the efforts of LEAP,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “There is no better place to kick off this annual, socially-minded exhibit than in Union Square Park, where New Yorkers have been broadcasting their ideas for over a century. The students’ thought provoking artwork is sure to enliven the city’s parks and raise awareness on the issues that are most important to them.

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LeAp’s Public Art Program exhibition was developed in cooperation with NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and supported by HSBC Bank USA, N.A., NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Mariano Brothers Specialty Moving, George P. Mills, Astoria Federal Savings, The Compleat Sculptor, and KADKO.

Over the past 33 years, LeAp’s professional artists, dancers, musicians, actors and writers have provided arts-based education programs to over two million children in grades K-12 throughout New York City. For more information, visit

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