Each summer, the program recruits up to twenty high school students from New Haven to work with a Master Artist on a collaborative project that is installed in the gallery. This year’s program is led by William Downs, a Brooklyn-based artist, and involves fifteen high school students recruited from six different New Haven high schools. The participants spend three weeks creating and installing a large body of drawings that are done individually, but represent a collective narrative when viewed together. William Downs currently teaches drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art. His work has been shown in Baltimore, Atlanta, and New York. His work, which often takes the form of large-scale installations of many small drawings and paintings, involves elements of autobiography, narrative, collage, and text. Often verging on the surreal or abstract, the work finds its subject in “fear, worries, memories, dreams, fantasies, secrets, and feelings,” and in Downs’ interest in “the balance of conscious and unconscious states.” Downs explored these ideas, along with various art materials and techniques, with the participants.
As part of the program, the student participants collect paper, old books, magazines, and typewriters; they also experiment with collage, paint, ink, and various drawing tools. With these materials, they have assembled a combination of many kinds of image and text through which they each strove to express a personal narrative. Together, the separate narratives weave into one unified but multifaceted investigation in communal storytelling.