Tag Archive | "Reutershan Educational Trust"

Drone Spotted Flying Over Sag Harbor

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An aerial view of Sag Harbor taken by Pierson Middle/High School students with the school's new drone, donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust. Photo courtesy Peter Solow.

An aerial view of Sag Harbor taken by Pierson Middle/High School students with the school’s new drone, donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust. Courtesy Peter Solow.

By Tessa Raebeck 

At the signal from Theo Gray, Isabella di Russa sprinted down Pierson Hill, a streak of pink and red as a long Chinese dragon kite trailed behind her. Darting among a triangle of bright beach umbrellas held by classmates at the bottom of the hill, she weaved the dragon between them.

From Theo’s view at the top of the hill, the colorful umbrella tops were hardly visible, but he had a better vantage point. A drone, hardly noticeable except for the humming of its engine, whirred above Isabella’s head, capturing the scene below.

A small, remote-controlled aircraft with a camera attached to its base, the drone is the latest instrument of Sag Harbor’s student artists. Donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust, a privately funded art program created by Sag Harbor resident and architect Hobart “Hobie” Betts, the drone is being piloted in a weeklong workshop at Pierson High School.

On Wednesday, August 6, five students, Theo, Isabella, Danielle Schoenfeld, Joy Tagliasachhi and Zoe Vatash, two visiting artists, Francine Fleischer and Scott Sandell, both from Sag Harbor, and art teacher Peter Solow experimented with their new tool.

Mr. Sandell manned a remote control that operated the white drone, an alien-like aircraft with four propellers that move simultaneously in different directions. To capture photos and videos, students took turns controlling an iPhone connected simply by Wifi to the drone’s camera.

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Sag Harbor students took photos with their new drone on Pierson Hill on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Theo Gray.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, were until recently used primarily for military operations and by the occasional pioneering photographer. The technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with the once pricey gadgets (some of which still cost as much as $30,000) now available from vendors like Amazon for less than $75.

As with most new technology, drones are proliferating too fast for laws and regulations to keep up. On Sunday, August 3, Senator Charles Schumer urged the Federal Aviation Association and the U.S. Commerce Department to regulate the use of drones for both commercial and hobby purposes. New York City, the senator said, is the “Wild West for drones,” with multiple instances of the devices crashing into trees, apartment terraces and hovering outside windows reported this summer.

But on Pierson Hill Wednesday, the need was not for regulations nor drone policy, but for a way to master the new technology while also figuring out how to create art that is unique, inspiring and innovative, despite the gadgets’ soaring popularity.

“When people initially started to use computers to make artwork, they didn’t know what to do and everything they did was bad,” said Mr. Sandell, an artist and printmaker, who, like Ms. Fleischer, has worked with Sag Harbor students for years doing site-specific artwork and photography projects through the Reutershan Trust. “But now, people have learned how to use it and control it and software has caught up to the ideas and so, now you can create beautiful things with your computer.”

“So,” he added, “this is just another tool and that’s what’s really important here—taking that experience and putting it into your school of thought, your sensibilities, in terms of what’s possible.”

Pierson's new drone hovers over student Zoe Vatash on Wednesday, August 6. Courtesy Peter Solow.

Pierson’s new drone hovers over student Zoe Vatash on Wednesday, August 6. Courtesy Peter Solow.

“There’s a wow factor to the technology,” added Mr. Solow. “And this is the essential question that we’ve challenged the kids with and the thing that’s really tough—how do you take this technology and make art?”

Now that most people have cell phones with strong camera capabilities, everyone is constantly taking snapshots, Mr. Solow said, “so what’s the difference between a really great photograph and a snapshot? Everybody is going to have drones, what is the difference between what everybody will do with a drone and having some sort of artistic merit to what we’re doing?”

With just three days of drone experimentation under their belt, on Wednesday, the students appeared to have risen to the challenge. They had dozens of photographs and videos, including aerial shots of Sag Harbor Village with the harbor and North Haven in the distance, videos looking down on Zoe doing cartwheels and Isabella dribbling a soccer ball, and even a video of the drone crashing into a tree.

The drone, Theo said, allows the young artists to “do things that we really can’t do with a normal camera, with angles and views…it’s interesting just to see what we can do with photography.”

In one video, Zoe worked the camera while Danielle, Isabella, Joy and Theo rolled down the hill.

In a “self-portrait,” as Mr. Solow called it, the drone captured its own shadow reflected on the hill, a slightly eerie shot for anyone familiar with movies featuring rebellious robots.

“It’s awesome,” said Ms. Fleischer, a portrait, landscape and fine art photographer, “because you can use the ground as your canvas. So, with that in mind, it just gives you another perspective.”

A video taken in the Pierson gymnasium looks directly down onto the lines of the basketball court, with Mr. Solow and the students standing around a circle juggling and passing a soccer ball. As the drone hovers, figures move in and out of the shot. As Theo does a header, the ball comes dangerously close to the camera.

Pierson student Theo Gray and visiting artist Scott Sandell have a flight consultation on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Peter Solow.

Pierson student Theo Gray and visiting artist Scott Sandell have a flight consultation on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Peter Solow.

Filming indoors poses an additional challenge, as “the drone is so powerful that the propellers create a great deal of turbulence,” said Mr. Sandell. “When you’re inside, the turbulence bounces off the walls and comes back at the drone so you create a wind shear.”

When inside, the drone can be knocked around by the reflection of its own turbulence and harder to control. Outside, a gust of wind or an ill-advised bird could send it whirring away.

Despite the turbulence, the camera is generally still and focused, which is a good thing, as the students’ ideas of how to push the boundaries—and thus create innovative art—keep coming.

While brainstorming for new means of experimentation with the drone, Zoe asked, “Could we fill water balloons with paint and drop them from it?” No one denied the request.

 

More photos taken with Sag Harbor’s new drone:

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New Magazine Features Sag Harbor Students’ Artwork

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“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.”

 

 

 

Sag Harbor School Board Clarifies Public Input Policy

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By Tessa Raebeck

In honor of School Board Recognition Week, Monday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor board of education commenced with a short commemorative concert by members of the Pierson Middle/High School orchestra.

“We talk about music to the ears, that was music to the heart,” commented Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone presented the board with letters of thanks from the younger students.

“My teacher says that you work long hours, exactly how many hours do you work?” a fourth grader asked in one letter.

Another read, “Thank you for volunteering the time but please don’t work too hard.”

Following the moment of praise, the board returned to work, approving a first reading of board operating procedures. The packet includes a handout prepared by Mary Adamczyk, district clerk, outlining Policy 3320, which addresses public participation at board meetings.

The handout is supplementary to existing policy; it does not change it. Rather, it explains the policy which was revised last spring. The revisions allow community members to sign up for Public Input I, a period of public comment that happens at the start of board meetings, on a sign-up sheet outside the library up until the time of the meeting, rather than through the district clerk’s office the Friday prior as was previously required.

“This just clarifies that a little more,” explained Theresa Samot, president of the school board.

Chris Tice, school board vice president, suggested printing Adamczyk’s handout on the back of every meeting agenda, so the community is clear on how they can participate. Tice said the idea was a suggestion of John Battle, a member of the community who regularly attends school board meetings.

The board will review the wording of the handout and the operating procedures, implement revisions and discuss them further at a second reading during their next meeting.

In other school news, the board accepted a donation from the Reutershan Educational Trust, which has the sole purpose of fostering art programs within the school district, for $30,700 in supplies, materials and equipment to support the programs and $5,863.67 in salaries and benefits for district personnel to supervise. Following comments by board member Daniel Hartnett, the board agreed to look into establishing a board liaison to the trust.

The next school board meeting will be held November 18 in the Pierson library.