February 9

IB Art year 2 Student Juliet Bennett- Levy reflects on gender transitions and identity as her concentration










When I started thinking about my concentration, I wanted to explore the concept of transition.  The transitions between genders that transgender young people experience are thought of as ugly and something that should not be seen.

Often, transgender celebrities will go into a period of hiding after they announce their new identity while they undergo whatever medical changes they need to look how they want, and then reenter society looking completely different. This process keeps the transitional period out of the public eye, and makes people with ambiguous gender presentation seem unnatural. I believe that this is not the best was to handle transgender people in the public eye, since it makes encounters between cisgender and transgender people more uncomfortable and prevents understanding. I decided to paint transgender young people to try to document this stage in their lives, and my show is a celebration of these in-between people.

I decided to ask people to send me pictures they took of themselves for me to paint. I asked them to choose a picture that they felt confident in, and to explain all the reasons why they felt confident in that picture. In addition, I asked everyone for a list of the ways they identify themselves. I found their answers surprising, because people interpreted the prompt differently.   










My goal for this list was to help humanize the people in my paintings, so that my audience could get to know them better and imagine them as complex people rather than just strangers.

To further emphasize this spectrum (and transition) concept, I decided to arrange the pieces (in my exhibit) on a scale from feminine expression to masculine expression.




February 5

“Catch These Hands” AP Language Project – by Teena Thomas

Inspired by Angelica Dass, creator of Humanae, and in hope to spread togetherness and promote acceptance of diversity at Clarkstown High School North, I took on this photographic human hand mosaic.
The motivation to start such a project originated from Ms. Phalen’s AP Language class during our “Race & Otherness” unit as we explored & presented various texts found on social media, etc. in order to construct our own claims on the issues.

-my claim-

Color is a concept so familiar, simple & pure. We, as humans, believe we KNOW what color is and means. We hold STRONG OPINIONS and preconceived notions about color.
With “color”, there is no difference of which is better than the other; they are simply just colors. But when it comes to “skin color”, there is unfortunately a whole level of labeling, a sense of prejudice of one race/group over another.
But by reframing or redefining the term “color”, we can make the comfortable, uncomfortable.Through the use of defamiliarization, or the “the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar”, we can deconstruct this mentality of superiority. We can take color apart, and reconstruct the wheel with a new perspective, a new thought.

I chose hands because hands hold a second level, deeper meaning, symbolizing unity in itself. “The holding of hands” per say is unifying, accepting. So by using hands as a marker for each individual makes sense.

Along with the hands, I decided to have the caption be a word of identification, not a PANTONE color name. So each person along with a photograph chose a word they felt they identified as, i.e., musician, athlete, cheery, etc.

Artistic Process:
There were several moments I wasn’t quite sure what to do. So much ambition and excitement to tackle a project for a girl who had little to no experience on photoshop and also did not think through the details at the start. I just jumped right in! And it’s funny because I usually don’t do that; I like to plan out meticulously for anything I do to. It was a change in approach but it was well worth it.

During an Art Honors Meeting, with your help, I was able to collect the names of kids who were interested in participating.
With just a stool, a white sheet of paper, and my iPhone camera, I shot 67 hands of students & staff over the course of two days after school.
That weekend I began editing. 7 straight hours in my room without a break I cranked at it on Saturday. Then Sunday morning back at it, I spent the rest of my day editing until I got through 45 hands, all set & ready to go.
My editing consisted of taking a pixel of color from the center of the middle knuckle (as opposed to the center of the nose as Dass had done) and filling the background. I then selected a font, font size, and rectangular box height & width for the font to go on. Attached is a time lapse video of an example, Mr. Covert as “leader”.


I want to thank you, Mrs. Diamond for providing support and the resources to get my ideas a reality and Denise, the woman at the main office who out of genuine interest persuaded almost 30 students to stop & be a part of my project. Again thank you! This turned out so much more than I ever imagined. 🙂


January 13

Courageous Conversations 2

I never cease to be amazed by the power of students to connect across all sorts of barriers, if they are just given the time and space.

Today 60 students, from ENL classes, VAASA, Student Council and World of Difference spent the morning together.  In getting to know each other, they discovered not only how much they didn’t know about each other, but also how much they have in common.
















We continue our journey to open dialogue in respectful and meaningful ways….

November 11

Courageous Conversations

Today we welcomed back Simone Gamble to work with student leaders around the topic of Safe Spaces and Courageous Conversations.  Student leaders from VAASA, Student Council, Student Advisory Committee, the Gay Straight Alliance and World of Difference were invited to sign up for this 2 1/2 hour workshop.  52 students came together sharing experiences, concerns and ideas around the topic of diversity and specifically race relations at North.  Students had the opportunity to speak, question, and brainstorm.  They also role played different scenarios of things that have happened within the school, modeling how to be a good ally in those situations.  Most powerful, perhaps, was their verbalization of what they need/want in terms of support from their teachers, such as, continued focus on the creation of safe spaces.  They would also like to have more assemblies that are small and intimate like this one and open to all students.

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We continue our journey to open dialogue in respectful and meaningful ways….