“Jesse Owens” by Pierson student Ana Sherwood, was created during a workshop with Push Pin Studios co-founder Reynold Ruffins.
By Mara Certic
“It really is the story of two guys,” Peter Solow said in his art room at Pierson Middle-High School this week as he flicked through the pages of RETina, a magazine displaying his students’ artwork.
“One of them was Don Reutershan, who was very much involved in helping the community. The other is this amazing man named Hobie Betts.”
The two, he explained, were responsible for the creation of the Reutershan Educational Trust, which provides support for art and architecture educational programs at the public schools in Sag Harbor. “No other school, no other place,” Mr. Solow said.
Since its creation over a decade ago, the trust has provided the Sag Harbor School District with close to $100,000 each year. Mr. Betts was an architect who started the trust in memory of his good friend, Mr. Reutershan.
Money from the trust has gone to provide Pierson students with a professional large-format printer and better materials, which allow students to transfer sketches done on note paper directly onto fine art paper and canvas.
The Reutershan Trust also provides a $10,000 scholarship every year and contributes to art department trips to Europe.
In addition to that, the trust has held a combination of workshops and projects, bringing in professional artists to work with students.
Just last week, photographer Francine Fleischer returned to Pierson to teach one of the classes. Last year, Ms. Fleisher lead a photography project with high school students, which resulted in their photographs being posted on The New York Times website and in an exhibition at the John Jermain Memorial Library.
“And so we’re getting ready for her to be coming back and work with the kids today,” Mr. Solow said on Friday.
Last year, Catalan artist Perrico Pascal was flown in—again by the trust—to put on a workshop at Pierson that he had previously taught at universities in Cairo and Tokyo.
Bailey Briggs, who graduated from Pierson last June, got to work with Mr. Pascal during this program. “He’s the kind of artist who helps you do whatever your hands are going to do; it’s painting, it’s not thinking so hard about everything,” she said of the visiting artist.
Ms. Briggs studied photography at length during her time at Pierson. From the school, she said, she learned both the fundamentals of Photoshop as well as an appreciation of the details of art, she said.
Digital printmaking and photography, wax and portrait sculpture and illustration have all been taught by visiting artists, thanks to the Reutershan Educational Trust.
“We just finished this illustration project; this was Reynold Ruffins,” Mr. Solow said about one class. “There’s a collaboration that the trust works very hard at; not to be an outside group but to work with the faculty. The trust supplements and reinforces what we do in the classroom. It doesn’t supersede it and it doesn’t replace it,” he said. Thanks to this sense of cooperation, Mr. Ruffins’s workshop was integrated into Mr. Solow’s studio art class.
“The trust is really pretty wonderful,” Mr. Solow said. “And what we wanted to do with RETina is try to document the work that was done by the kids in trust workshops because there really wasn’t a record of it.”
RETina is a 40-page color magazine that features about two years’ worth of work produced in these classes.
Mr. Solow brought in a friend and former classmate at Cooper Union, Michael DiCanio, to design the magazine. Mr. DiCanio, a trained painter, took an interest in design in art school. To support his painting, he worked his way into the advertising world and “fell in love with the profession,” he said.
Mr. DiCanio ran a two-dimensional workshop in which students participated in the editing, layout and design processes. “We thought the need to showcase the student work would be best done by putting it between two covers,” said Mr. DiCanio. “And that there might be further educational value in getting the kids involved in the process of creating that, too.”
Mr. DiCanio said that his class focused on brand identity, and that he made sure the students examined and considered the best “language” to express their message.
“In a way, what we are putting between two covers is Sag Harbor itself,” he said. “There is no way to oversee the organization of hundreds of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures done by a community’s youth and not see the world as they do—their world.”