Lara Giordano’s retirement from Kingston High School’s art department after a stellar teaching career of 30 years is being recognized with a $1,000 scholarship award for a graduating KHS student. In so doing, the scholarship honors a teacher who has demonstrated that arts education can be a hugely significant component to the development of an Arts District.
Lara’s relationship with her students goes far beyond the classroom, and her mentorship often extends into their early adulthood. Her establishment in 2015 of the Pop Up Gallery Group (PUGG) and the Department of Regional Art Workers (DRAW) engaged current and former students on a professional level in Kingston’s arts community. From this artistic activation, her students gained direct experience in exhibiting, curating and networking.
PUGG and DRAW are themselves an outgrowth of Lara’s long commitment to encouraging her students to invest in the community and in City government—and one reason that many of them have stayed or returned to Kingston after graduating. Her protégées have not only become artists in their own right: They have found jobs in local arts industries and organizations. One student has even been selected to fill the City’s newly created position of Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs.
But Lara made an equally profound and far-reaching contribution in securing a role for the arts in cross-disciplinary education. Beginning in 2004, she teamed with KHS chemistry teacher, Christine Marmo, to create a “Chemistry for Artists” class. The study of chemistry through printmaking, photography and painting became an exemplary unifying tool. Art-minded students were introduced to a scientific way of thinking about their materials, and science students experienced creative thinking outside the standard discipline.
Despite the fact that studies have shown that arts education enhances a student’s performance in other disciplines—even across economic lines—the concept of pairing science with art is rarely put into practice, even on the college level. This rare achievement on a high school level (in Midtown!) has attracted recognition from Bard College’s Master of Arts Teaching Program and the National Art Education Association.
Though retiring from her high school career, Lara will continue her leadership in the arts through DRAW and the Kingston Arts Commission. Lucky for us! Lara Giordano is a prime example of what makes MAD so vibrant and unique.