Educator Spotlight

Art21 Educator Spotlight: Jeannine Bardo

Courtesy of Jeannine Bardo.

Jeannine Bardo is an educator and artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She’s been teaching kindergarten through eighth grade for eighteen years at St. Ephrem School, a Catholic school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Jeannine joined the Art21 Educator community in the program’s third year, and has remained an active and vital member ever since. While teaching and dedicating time to her own practice, Jeannine simultaneously works as the founder and director of Stand4 Gallery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Dedicated to providing platforms that support the voices of others, Jeannine joins the Art21 Magazine as Educator-in-Residence for our upcoming issue “Figures of Speech.” Exploring notions of truth, storytelling, knowledge-sharing, and protest, the new issue will feature two contributions by Jeannine packed with nearly two decades of insight, lesson plans, and classroom ideas related to various interpretations of speech.

Art21: Why do you believe the thinking and practices of contemporary artists are important to incorporate in the classroom? What do students get out of it that they might not otherwise?

Jeannine Bardo: Contemporary artists are explorers. They are curious about the big world and they show us how to view the world through a different lens. They are able to grapple with difficult subjects and create works that are like gifts, forever unfolding. It is not a pie in your eye. It fosters critical thinking, taking us out of the black and white and into the grey areas that keep us questioning.

This offers students a way of thinking that fosters more questions.

Art21: Why were you initially drawn to the Art21 Educators program?

JB: I came to Art21 Educators when I was researching artists while writing my curriculum. I found myself exploding with ideas after viewing the videos and I kept coming back for more. I knew the Art21 Educators program would challenge me even more.

Children at Red Hook Public Library working on a mural that honors the ocean for the NYC Public Art Commission Ark for the Arts by artists Jeannine Bardo and Isabelle Garbani. Ark for the Arts is a socially engaged artwork focused on climate change and resiliency for the community of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Courtesy of Jeannine Bardo.

Art21: How has Art21 Educators changed your practice, as both an educator and an artist?

“Contemporary art fosters critical thinking, taking us out of the black and white and into the grey areas that keep us questioning.”

JB: Art21 Educators definitely changed, and continues to change, my practice. As an educator I am continually inspired by the other educators that are a part of the program. They not only offer ideas, they offer support. As an artist I find myself embracing the educator in me and moving more towards social practice. I recently opened an artist-run initiative in my community called Stand4 Gallery, and its mission is to “be alive and working towards a better world through the arts as an active medium of engagement.” It’s a place open to different learning experiences and community-building through the arts.

Jeannine’s Bucket Dregs Series inspired by the dirty bucket in my classroom. Images were collected over the course of two years. Courtesy of Jeannine Bardo.

Art21: Describe a specific work of art, artist, or exhibition that has recently inspired you or your teaching practice.

JB: This is a tough one. There are so many. There is one recent exhibition that is taking up some space in my head right now… Recently Jean Dubuffet’s Théâtres de mémoire series was on view at Pace Gallery in New York. It was a show of large canvases collaged with smaller cut up paintings that Dubuffet made later in his life. I was mesmerized by the overwhelming abundance of line and color that should have been a confusing mess of a composition. Somehow he made it all make sense and I couldn’t figure out how he did it.

Completed Ark for the Arts mural, titled WOTI (World of the Imagination). Courtesy of Jeannine Bardo.

Close to home I am inspired regularly by the artists in my community of Bay Ridge, and the artists I have been meeting through Stand4. I recently hosted an exhibition organized by the artists of LABverde entitled Invisible Landscape. It was a beautiful show that immersed the viewer in the sights and sounds of the Amazon rainforest. Being an interdisciplinary artist myself, I was impressed by how technology was used to connect viewers to a place that most of us will never visit, but is still so vital to everyone on the planet. As an educator, I was pleased that visitors commented on what they learned and questioned their place in this connected world.