Brooklyn students embroider their ideas

I am so excited to finally tell you about a project that has been in the works since last year!

In July 2010, I was contacted by an art teacher in Brooklyn, New York named Anita. She had seen the Be Nice. brochure art work at a show in Tribeca and had become very excited by the idea of the project. She wrote [edited for privacy], “I am an artist and teacher working in Brooklyn. I would love to do a project this fall with our students ….. embroidering ‘random pleasant interaction.’

That email sparked a conversation between us over the last six months that has been tremendously rewarding for me. To know someone was inspired by the project so much as to create a middle school art project based on it was a dream come true!


What Anita and her students accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Anita asked her students to embroider “affirmations” that meant something to them. In November she wrote:

I currently have the students cross stitching messages. I color xeroxed your brochure to inspire them….and they loved it as much as I do. I challenged the kids to select a lesson they are currently working to learn/practice. (For me, my message was “Wear helmet” as I wiped out on a scooter this summer—not wearing a helmet—and got hurt pretty badly. They could relate to this.) The kids have taken to the cross stitching. We started out on the plastic gridding and are now working on aida cloth (8 count).  Some kids are even choosing to do their messages in other languages to increase their challenge and creativity points!! …. The kids all picked their phrases and I am thrilled with their progress.

The students were incredibly ambitious, persevering through the inherent challenges of embroidery (being patient, having conviction and vision, sticking to a plan, sustaining prolonged attention) to achieve beautiful imagery! When Anita sent me the images of the student work, I was giddy with excitement:

What your students are doing sounds SO wonderful!!!!  ….  I wish I lived in NYC just so I could come and see these children’s messages in person. Oh, how exciting! These kids are MY inspiration!!!

To which Anita replied (even more exciting!):

As you can imagine…..the positive stories and sub stories happen day to day…. Obviously, [these] moments make teaching rewarding. Aishah is working in Arabic. Her pattern was extremely challenging to create and she has had to rip it out at least 3 times now…..but she is persisting.
The students have taken tons more pictures of the other kids and their work…I edited many of them today and they look great. Today’s photos tell a better story of … how the students are helping each other, the unique messages they are working on, and the many languages in which the students are currently working.

I could not have dreamed of a more rewarding effect this project could have had. How absolutely wonderful! These students are such an inspiration–their experimentation and bravery in this new medium yielded impressive results!

And finally I can share their successes with you. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the students’ works on the blog. Some will have short comments the students have written along with the image of their project.

I want to thank these talented young artists for allowing me to share their work on the Be Nice. project website! I feel honored to be able to share these works with my readers. I have no doubt everyone will enjoy them as much as I have!

Tomorrow: the first post of student work and coming soon is an introduction to the brilliant teacher responsible for making this happen! Stay tuned!

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