Teaching Creativity: Making Art in a Pandemic


Photograph by Erica Fredes

Learn more about all the youth exhibitions in the Edu Lab Notebook: Peer Exchange in the Park.

Students of the High School of Art and Design will display work they made during remote learning due to the pandemic. Students increased their experience of photography, and shared it with those they photographed. They were asked to engage in projects on a much more independent level during remote learning. In this exhibit, students portray these experiences through self-reflection and interviews with their families. Through their work, they teach their families, friends, and associates about photography.

Photography students at the High School of Fashion Industries had to turn their lenses inward this year and explore domestic life in a deep and meaningful way. My students’ creativity during the pandemic has led me to learn so much more about their family lives and cultures. The population of HSFI is 57% Hispanic—a rich mix of Dominican, Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Puerto Rican cultures—which I, as a white teacher of European descent, have known little about. This year my students have become my teachers, guiding me through the experiences of Hispanic immigrants living and surviving in New York City.

Watch videos from the student artists: 

Desarie Francis

Mara Matthews

Giovanna Gordon

Erica Fredes

Fiorella Vasquez

Samantha Negroni

Kamila Bartoszewicz


Featuring: Brianna Brand, Desarie Francis, Erica Fredes, Fiorella Vasquez, Giovanna Gordon, Kamila Bartoszewicz, Lynnet Taveras, Mara Matthews, Mosijah Roye, Samantha Negroni, Adriana Torres Moran, Annette Palacios

Curated by: Brenna McLaughlin and Ben Russell
Location: Brooklyn Bridge Park - Pier 3 (temporarily relocated to the South side of Pier 3 until October 11)

About The Curators

Brenna McLaughlin is a photographer and educator, currently teaching at the High School of Art and Design—a Career & Technical Education (CTE) school located in Manhattan, New York. She believes the camera is an essential pedagogical instrument, and a way to tell inventive stories by empowering young people to share their perspectives of the world. As the photography teacher at A+D, McLaughlin spearheaded the curriculum for the three-year photography program. The CTE model is an incredible way to bring the real world directly into the classroom. McLaughlin believes art can help foster conversations to be an advocacy tool for Black lives, and so many stories that matter. She advocates for the photography industry to become a more balanced and diverse community. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

After over 30 years as a freelance commercial photographer working for corporate, editorial, and nonprofit clients, Ben Russell started a second career as a high school art teacher. He teaches visual art, black and white film photography, and digital photography at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City. Russell also teaches at the International Center of Photography and the Fashion Institute of Technology. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

About The Organizations

High School of Art and Design

During one of the most challenging years of our lives, our students made incredible images that captured so many aspects of their experiences. As you can see, our students continued and increased their capacity to create invigorating images with perseverance and heart. We look at this past year, a year in a pandemic, where students got to pause and think about what really matters to them. Students increased their shared experience of photography to those they photographed and were asked to engage in projects on a much more independent level during remote learning. In this exhibit, students highlight this incredible work. By clicking on the QR codes next to the students photographs, you will be able to hear from the students directly.


High School of Fashion Industries

The mission of the High School of Fashion Industries is to provide challenging, creative, and effective career, technical, and academic training for New York City students. The faculty and administration of our school—working with the cooperation of the parents and student body—seek to provide a unique learning experience and a specially tailored program for all students who have an interest in a fashion-related field.


High School of Art and Design



High School of Fashion Industries