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Pines Bridge Special Education Students Display Their Artwork In Katonah

Pines Bridge student Perry McNiff of Rye Neck visits the Katonah Village library to see some of the paintings he and other Pines Bridge students had created.
Pines Bridge student Perry McNiff of Rye Neck visits the Katonah Village library to see some of the paintings he and other Pines Bridge students had created. Photo Credit: Contributed

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. -- Artwork created by special education students at BOCES' Pines Bridge School in Yorktown Heights was displayed  recently at a week-long exhibit at Katonah Village Library.

“I’m trying to get this artwork displayed everywhere I possibly can,” said JoAnne Gonnella, a Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES teacher of the visually impaired. “Whenever people see it, the response is just incredible.”

Last year, the pieces were displayed at the Katonah Museum of Art and the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville.

“The students that participated in this project have multiple disabilities, are non-verbal, visually impaired, and have limited motor abilities,” said Gonnella. “This activity allowed them to take as much time as they needed, make choices, socialize, learn color vocabulary, experience tactual stimulation and gain confidence with exploring different textures.

The brilliant, multi-colored paintings were created by groups of students who used their hands, feet and arms -- even the treads of their wheelchairs to spread the paint.

“People love the paintings, but when they hear how the artwork was created, they just can’t believe it,” said Gonnella, who was joined in the effort by fellow teachers Roberta Tuttle, Mary Ann Alvord and Melanie Whelan.

The library exhibit featured a new piece created with modeling clay. Students manipulated the clay into various shapes and forms, and the resulting pieces were arranged to spell out the initials “PBS” for Pines Bridge School.

“Everybody has creativity inside them,” said librarian Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, who helped coordinate the exhibit with Gonella. “It’s wonderful to see this group expression of creativity.”

“The art looks great,” said Gonnella. “ My intent is to give the general public a chance to see what our students can accomplish.  It is a thrill to see people's responses to the work, especially those who are outside the BOCES community.”

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