Year Five of Art21 Educators: Renee Bareno and Sara Fromboluti

Recently, we met Art21 Educators Becca Belleville and Eric Pugh of Baltimore. Today, let’s get acquainted with New Yorkers Renee Bareno and Sara Fromboluti.


Renee and Sara teach at the Aaron School, a K-12 college preparatory school for students with learning differences. “The Aaron Academy (Now Aaron School) was founded on the principals that integrating art and technology into the classroom had innumerable benefits for students academically, socially and behaviorally and continues to support those ideals.” Though Renee teaches art and Sara teaches science and math, both educators are committed to new ways of introducing art to their students.

Renee has been using Art21 films in her classroom for years.

“I want to introduce other ways of creating art and have my students explore how and why that is important. As my students are entering high school, I feel that a great way to keep them engaged is in having relevant conversations, collaborations and explorations around what is happening in art in their city, their communities (both globally and locally) and in this particular time period.”

Inspired by the artwork she sees regularly in the city, Renee described a recent installation that encouraged her to think about the ways she helps students understand the value and vulnerability of art.

“They had covered the walls, ceiling and floor with individual works and collaborative works…Upon entering the space, I saw people gingerly stepping around the work on the floor…myself included. It reminded me of how important it is to teach students about being respectful of their work but also to make sure that they [don’t] over value it and turn it into something precious and untouchable.”

In her classroom, Renee tries to give students productive parameters for their creative ideas, as well to be reflective about their own creative process. She has used the artist Joseph Cornell to inspire student to use diverse materials but to be self-conscious about their choices and methods. She describes her interest in participating in the Art21 Educators program as a way of providing this kind of reflective learning for her students, but also to develop a “framework to consistently question and explore what I am doing.”

Like Renee, Sara also looks to contemporary art to clarify complex ideas. In a lesson basedon the Ecology episode of Art in the Twenty-First Century, students discussed the artwork of Robert Adams and how he depicts the effect of humans on their environments. Students then created a model of an ecosystem using only recycled materials to represent the different biomes and niches.

Sara explained her interest in bringing contemporary art and artists into her classroom:

“For students who are struggling to understand the content or find personal relevance, it gives them an entry point for meaning. For students with a stronger grasp of science or math, it gives them a method of expanding and abstracting their comprehension and helps them to generalize the concepts across a range of situations. In addition, expressing understanding through the arts gives students a method of displaying their understanding and creativity authentically and engages them in a manner that is not always possible with tests and papers.”

In her video application to Art21 Educators Sara shared her own artistic practice as well as how she uses experiential and project-based learning to get students involved in the science questions and topics they are learning about. Students were building bridges, etc.

“I found that being a science teacher is really a lot like being an art teacher. It’s very project-based, you need to be able to manage a more material-heavy classroom environment, it’s hands-on, it’s inquiry-based, and … it’s a place where kids can have a different type of learning experience. They’re not sitting in their chairs taking notes; they’re working collaboratively, they’re discussing, they’re constructing.”

Remember to return here in two weeks when we profile new Art21 Educators Ryan Schmidt and Erin Shafkind.