As part of the NYC Department of Education’s (DOE) Public Art for Public Schools (PAPS) program, artist Letha Wilson was selected to create site-specific artwork for the new addition at PS32 Samuel Mills Sprole School in Brooklyn. Installation of the three pieces, Nevada Sky Moonrise Fold, Valley of Fire Canyon, and Washington Coast Forest, welcomed students to the new building in the fall of 2020.

The three different pieces combine photography and sculpture in distinct and surprising ways, pairing landscape photographs with geometric shapes and sculptural forms, the DOE said. The vibrant, dynamic UV prints are intended to inspire students’ wonder about the natural world, geography, history, and travel, as well as photography and sculpture, they added.

ESKW/Architects joined the NYC SCA, PAPS, the school principal, and the Department for Cultural Affairs in reviewing and then selecting the artist for the school. Once selected, Ms. Wilson met with the SCA and architectural team to develop and refine the artwork, construction, and installation. Lighting for the pieces was studied by the project lighting consultant Domingo Gonzalez and proposed for optimal viewing of the pieces. The pieces are located in common areas on each of the building’s three floors at the terminus of the corridor connecting the existing and new buildings.

“The children at PS32 just love the artwork,” said Principal Denise M. Watson-Adin. “You can always see them looking up as they exit the building to go to the school yard or just walking in the hallway to their mask breaks. They often say ‘Hey, look at that…’ and the conversations continue from there.”

Public Art in NYC Public Schools is the only program dedicated to public art in schools in the country. The program began in 1989 and preserves and maintains public art in schools throughout the five boroughs. ESKW/Architects previously collaborated with artist W. Scott Trimble on the installation of Paths of Discovery using terrazzo and colored concrete at the New Settlement Community Campus. We are currently working with the NYCSCA, PAPS, and DCA for the artist selection of our upcoming new building at PS108X. We are honored to be involved with supporting public artists and bringing high-quality art to New York City’s public schools.

It has been exciting to be a part of this project and see Letha’s works bring the new space to life. Although not anticipated at the time of selecting the artist, Letha’s images of airy and spacious landscapes cheerfully transport viewers in a time of necessary social distancing.