Wisdom of fourth-graders on display at Burrison Gallery

Burrison Gallery

Judy Gelles

Photographer Judy Gelles’ exhibition “Fourth Grade Project” shows fourth graders revealing wisdom beyond their years as they share some of the important issues they face in their lives.

An exhibit on display in the Burrison Gallery by photographer Judy Gelles shows fourth graders revealing wisdom beyond their years as they share some of the important issues they face in their lives.

Gelles’ multi-media exhibition, “Fourth Grade Project,” uses words and photographs to create portraits of the youngsters.

In the photos, each child faces away from the camera to remain anonymous. But the children’s personalities still shine through. One student is holding up the two-finger “peace” sign. Another is shown with her arms outstretched as she jumps several inches into the air. A couple of students have both hands raised above their heads, as if they are cheering.

For the project, Gelles asked the students who they live with, what they wish for, and what they worry about.

Some students come from homes with several generations living under one roof. One student is concerned about his family’s safety, after his cousin was shot and killed. Others are concerned about unemployment, immigration, world hunger, world peace, and the environment.

“I think these photos are particularly interesting because [they are] socially relevant and make you think, and it prompts great discussion,” says Ilene Wilder, chair of the Burrison Gallery Advisory Committee.

The Burrison Gallery presents seven exhibits a year and welcomes submissions for consideration for future exhibitions. Penn faculty, staff, alumni, graduate students or their family members are eligible for consideration.

Gelles, whose husband, Richard, is dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice, created the series of photographs after meeting the fourth-graders while volunteering to help students with reading. She interviewed and photographed students in seven schools. Three of the schools are included in the Burrison Gallery exhibit—an inner-city public school, a private Quaker school, and a primarily Hispanic school.

The exhibit is on display through Nov. 9 at the Burrison Gallery in the University Club at Penn, 3611 Walnut St. The Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information about Judy Gelles’s work, visit her website.

Originally published on October 11, 2012