Meryl Meisler and the "Drop-Ins." (Arts Education and AIDs Education Combined in Urban Communities in Brooklyn, New York)

By Wyrick, Mary | School Arts, January 1998 | Go to article overview

Meryl Meisler and the "Drop-Ins." (Arts Education and AIDs Education Combined in Urban Communities in Brooklyn, New York)


Wyrick, Mary, School Arts


Meryl Meisler has effectively connected urban communities in Brooklyn with HIV/AIDS education and classroom art teaching. A graduate of Buffalo State College and recipient of the Disney American Teacher Award for the Visual Arts, Meisler has students do assignments about social issues in their communities. She engaged middle and high school students in creating a mural for the medical room of Roland Hayes Intermediate School 291, now a community center.

She often focuses on AIDS education, having been certified to teach family living and sex education, which includes teaching about AIDS and HIV infection. She and her at-risk students, the "Drop-ins," included the mural works in a video installation at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York. Meisler's students also combined art education with AIDS education by contributing art for the "AIDS Timeline" by the artists' collaborative, Group Material.

Expanding the Role of Educators

AIDS activists address many social issues in their work -- drug abuse, homelessness, and other race, gender, and social issues important for public school curricula. As Meryl Meisler has done in her teaching, we should expand the role of the artist and teacher into the public affairs and personal struggles in our communities.

The Group Material Installation

The student assignment for the "AIDS Timeline" took the form of a photocollage in the shape of a backwards question mark. For the assignment, Meisler asked students individually to document, with photography, decay in their schools and communities. Together, they combined these photographs and other visuals into the collage made into the shape of a question mark. Collaboration with the community is an important part of Group Material's commitment to urban groups. By including Meisler's students' collage of decay in their school and community, the AIDS epidemic was connected to living conditions in urban communities where HIV is most likely to spread.

The New Museum Installation

Meisler also collaborated in a project for an art exhibit entitled the "The Final Frontier," at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York. …

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