Town officials honor art students
ISLIP—At a reception on Tuesday, Jan. 30, Islip Town officials recognized the artists of the “I Matter” Project, an art-based character education and youth leadership program that aims to enrich student learning while developing their ability to express themselves through art and language.
The 39 Central Islip middle school students involved in the program were asked to write why they matter on a plaque next to their artwork, which was unveiled during the reception at Islip Town Hall.
Student Abigail Salazar said she matters because she is “unique” and “funny,” and that her project means “you should love yourself for who you are, what you look like, and you should not change for anyone or anything.”
Student Daniel Mars said he matters because he devotes his time to better himself and the activities he does.
Studio art teacher Candido Crespo said the reception was a celebration of the work that students of Central Islip (Charles A. Mulligan Middle School) created in response to the negative publicity surrounding their community. “Through the effort of the Central Islip Civic Council, we are able to fund a project that explored the students’ self-worth and value through the visual arts,” Crespo said. “The goal was to highlight the positive aspects of Central Islip by placing a spotlight on our youth.”
Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said the exhibit truly represents the community’s youth and the “enormous” social issues that impact them. “These students took the message ‘I Matter’ and translated that message into artwork that defines for them why they as human beings matter,” Carpenter said. “One would think that is a very simple question. But it’s not so easy to translate that answer into a piece of artwork.”
The “I Matter” Project was first launched in 2013, with the first site being the Northport Public Library. The program promotes social awareness and vital dialogue pertaining to critical issues such as anxiety, depression, adolescent suicide, social media addiction, gang violence and substance abuse.
“I’m thrilled and honored that Mr. Crespo has added this beautiful aspect to the ‘I Matter’ Project,” said Robert Goldman, founder and director of the Center for Creative Development in Huntington, a nonprofit organization that is the home of the “I Matter” Project. “Using art as a way for kids to be seen and heard is what the ‘I Matter’ Project is all about. The beauty, honesty, and revealing nature of these paintings certainly do that. My hat’s off to Mr. Crespo and his courageous, talented students.”
Goldman is also the author of “Shooting from the Heart: Creating Passion and Purpose in Your Life and Work,” and an adjunct professor at Adelphi University, Dutchess Community College and Suffolk County Community College, where he teaches courses in photography, interpersonal communication and social impact art.
“I matter because I am a person with different types of emotions and a personality. I love to write,” said student Gersenda Gomez.
“I matter because I could help people. I am most active in the classroom and I enjoy making others laugh and make them have a good time,” added student Dennis Chuquilin.
Crespo said seeing the completed artwork doesn’t really tell the full story of what the experience was like. He also addressed the “negative publicity” pertaining to the Central Islip community. “I’ve been working there for 11 years now, and in that 11 years, I can’t say that negative representation is something I’ve experienced,” Crespo said. “I’ve been very spoiled and had a tremendous career so far in the district. And this project further shows that’s the case.”
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