Photo from the Contructed Tunnel Books exhibition

Today’s Art and Design Education (ADE) students at Pratt Institute are gaining real-world knowledge and experience in their field with the help of the robust network of ADE alumni who teach in New York City’s public schools. Each year, ADE faculty work closely with many ADE alumni in the city’s schools to place student teachers in more than a dozen schools to help them gain the teaching experience that is a key element of their training. ADE graduates also share their experiences and projects with students on Pratt’s campus, through guest lectures and exhibitions of work by their New York City public school students.  

The recent exhibition on campus of tunnel books made by high school students taught by Laura Blau (M.F.A. Printmaking and Advanced Certificate in Art and Design Education ’12) at Millennium Art Academy in the Bronx is an example of how Pratt’s Art and Design Department sustains active connections with alumni. In addition to the exhibition of work by her high school students, Blau also supervises Pratt student teachers.

Maline Singh, The Constructed Tunnel Books exhibition was the culmination of a Millennium Art Academy class project taught by Blau, who worked with the high school students as they created hand-built, originally conceptualized paper tunnel books. In Blau’s curriculum, there is an emphasis on design, structure, concept, and continuity. The three-dimensional collaged objects used cutouts from magazine pages to represent the students’ interests, explore specific themes, or render imagined worlds.

The more than 30 hand-crafted tunnel books were displayed in the Nancy Ross Project Space on Pratt’s Brooklyn campus last spring.  For Art and Design Education students, seeing classroom projects like this one firsthand is a valuable opportunity to explore different ways of making connections across their work in the studio and teaching.

Blau took classes in book arts while completing her M.F.A. at Pratt, and first taught tunnel books to middle school students as part of a student-teaching assignment for her ADE coursework. Tunnel books are a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly project, and creating them incorporates both mathematics and architecture. Throughout the project, Blau encouraged her students to develop persistence, write and speak about their art, and lead critiques of student projects, which made for a multifaceted learning experience.  Blau’s students and parents attended the opening and also participated in a college visit to Pratt. For many students, this was their first time traveling to Brooklyn and visiting a college.

There are two exhibitions involving ADE alumni and students on campus this fall: The Teaching + Learning Potential of a Re-Imaged Space, an interdisciplinary panel and exhibition that explores how a cart designed by ADE student and Pratt alumna Natasha Seng (M.I.D. ’17; M.S. Art and Design Education ’18) can be used by teachers to reimagine the classroom environment in New York City school; and The Road to Professional Certification: An Exhibition of Performance Assessment, an exhibition featuring highlights of Jillian Leedy’s (M.S. Art and Design Education, 2017) performance assessment with work by her students.

Images: (top) Photo from the Contructed Tunnel Books exhibition; (inset) Maline Singh (Grade 10), Through My Thoughts