WHSAD Sophomore, Jared Birks, took all photos in this story.
On Thursday March 3rd, 10th Grade WHSAD Students attended Park Avenue Armory to experience Rashaad Newsome’s exhibit, Assembly. This exhibition featured a large room with projected imagery on the walls, a walk through of art media showcasing both Black Queer and West African culture, and the exhibit’s focal point, an A.I. named Being. This part of the exhibit consisted of an interactive workshop on decolonization that students and staff were able to engage in through dances, meditations, conversation, and questions led by Being. Those attending the workshop were asked to think about their own relationship to the capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy and how they can free themselves from such oppression.
Following this experience, students wrote about the exhibit and what they learned from it. The following are student writing pieces on their experience.
The trip to the Park Avenue Armory was cool. It showcased a lot of displays that got me thinking after the trip. Some of the displays were amazing, satisfying, and very out of this world. As well as Being 2.0, who answered some of my classmate’s questions about life and the things going on between Russia and Ukraine. Something from the Armory that I learned is no matter what race or background we should treat peers the same with equal respect and value. We’re still in that mindset that one gender is superior to the other, but it shouldn’t be this way after talking to Being and the workers in the Armory. Overall, the trip was great because not only did I create stronger bonds with my friends but I created new friendships with other classmates. The trip was well worth waiting for and going to.
Throughout periods 2-6, WHSAD sophomore students went on a trip to the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, after many months of wondering what exactly is this place.
Seconds after entering the building, WHSAD students and teachers were all greeted by the Armory staff with banners and greetings. After the warm welcome, all students picked up a coloring book, a pamphlet, and a pencil from the tables.
Going inside of the exhibition was mind-blowing and unsettling, as projectors had imagery on the walls, depicting outer space and people dancing. The middle of the room had a hologram of “Being,” an AI dancing. While walking towards the theater for the main event, the students came across a variety of statues and pieces of art made by African Americans.
After seeing the pieces of art, we were all sat down to be introduced to “Being,” an AI that introduces us to diversity and how capitalism, imperialism, and oppression damage minorities and others part of gender or sexuality groups. After this initial talk, Being invited students, teachers, and armory staff to meditate with Being. While meditating, Being was stating some advice and stating that mental health always comes first. After continuous meditation and lectures about oppression being normalized against minorities and people of sexuality and gender groups, we did 2 Q&As. One about how oppression affects you and what you do to combat the oppression. In the final interaction with Being, there was a regular Q&A with Being. The highlight of this Q&A is when a classmate asked if pineapple belongs on pizza. After a few seconds of thinking, Being simply answered “Yes!”. After the Q&A, the sophomore students, teachers, and armory staff all took a group photo. We then all left the armory, some of us blown away, unsettled, or lukewarm about the trip.
As for my thoughts, I was blown away, with so much imagery and modern technology. Although some parts were unsettling, it was a really “cool unsettling mood.” I can’t wait to see what future technology does to the Armory. As it can expand the imagery and Being’s potential to share more stories with us.
Jennifer Segundo Ramirez
When we got to the Park Avenue Armory, we were welcomed with people holding posters while we walked in. We walked in and it was so beautiful in the room. It was dark but it had cool images on the screen. One of them was like a galaxy background, and in the middle there was like a person dancing in the air. We walked to a different room where on the wall it had a very amazing art piece. The people who were touring told us to take a seat, where in front there was a screen with a robot that went by the pronouns they/them. They told us to participate and to stand in the middle where they started with dancing. They would make the students, even Mr. Koestner, first follow and practice the steps before adding it all together as one. The students who were participating looked like they were having fun and were laughing.
Afterward, they had us get in pairs and speak about a question and how it affects us. Afterward, they had us go up to the mic and talk about the question. When I was talking to my partner, one of the workers had come up to us and asked us what we felt and even he had talked about how he felt about the question himself made us understand the question better. The students that spoke up had expressed themselves well through the question and even talked about how it was relative to them in their perspective.
Lastly, we did a meditation to think. I found this experience very calm and relaxing to be in. Even if I didn’t participate, I had a nice conversation with my partner and the worker and it made me understand how I felt inside about the question. It was just a good experience to be in.
Angel Diaz Jr.
The Armory trip took place on March 3rd, 2022. This trip was easily one of the best trips I’ve gone to at WHSAD.
The trip started in Ms.Como’s room (211), and just waiting in the room was the pure embodiment of excitement. I knew the moment I walked in I’d have a blast (I completely did) just waiting in a room was in the top three moments of my day. We then went through the hallway and to the auditorium where we’d leave out the exit into the school buses.
The bus ride was its own fun to be had. I sat next to Sheena for the first part of the bus ride. I think Sheena’s cool. We had a fun conversation about the school and everything. Towards the front of the bus was so much chaos just teenagers being teenagers and it was amazing. Everyone was just yelling, talking to their friends 2 rows down, playing games, and we even played a group iMessage game.
When we got to the Armory, it was amazing. All WHSAD students were greeted with a cheer and a smile making entering the armory not awkward. I felt like James Franco or Keanu Reeves walking into a primer for a random movie shot in 2026. The warm embrace of the Armory staff provided a perfect illustration of how welcoming the place is. We walked into this huge room filled with holographic images scattered on the walls shot by a huge amount of projectors that were pretty hard to locate. Later on, we saw a lot more black art mixed with its culture even some freaky-looking man thing statue.
‘If you touch, it’ll come alive’ was what a worker had told me on the trip about that statue.
Later on, we would be greeted with BEING, an AI that can have interactions with participants. Most of BEING’s answers were related to nationalism and white supremacy, which I’ll admit did make me question the world a bit, and it was kind of true what they were saying about how people are suppressed. I full think BEING is not an AI because a lot of his answers seemed to fix such as when someone said ‘who’s gonna win the Super Bowl next year or any out of the blue question like ‘does pineapple belong on pizza’ we just got random weird answers and maybe a yes or no.
Overall, this was my favorite trip by far I’ve gone on in WHSAD. The Armory has taught me a lot about supremacy and suppression and how some people can’t fully express who they are because of standards set by others, and I see that and find it super unfair that someone else’s standards and words affects others so much. One lady told us she always is self-conscious about going into a store, afraid store owners will think she stole something because she is a woman of color, and I feel that I feel that on the same level. Being judged by skin, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality isn’t fair and that’s what I think the armory trip has taught me.
I went to the Park Avenue Armory for a school trip because I do well in school. When we got there, the people holding up signs made me feel like I was famous, and I almost fell when I was going up the stairs. I started laughing at myself. When I went to the Armory, I had so much fun. We learned so many different things. We learned how to catwalk and other dances but I don’t remember the others. Some of the students ask the AI questions. I didn’t because I was too scared. We answered some questions about white supremacy. I found the AI really funny. I took a lot of pictures. We took a group picture together. Even though the trip was very short, I had so much fun. I loved taking a break from school for a few hours. I hope I go again someday. The Armory is a great place to spend time with your friends and family. I’m sad because I did not see everything. I did not see the performers, but I was one of them because I took part. There are different kinds of stuff you can see at the Armory. I promise you if you go to the Park Avenue Armory, you will have so much fun. The Armory made me think about what is going on in the world right now.
Well before visiting the Armory, I thought it would be huge because there would be art being displayed, and it was. I wanted to explore more cause it looked like there was other stuff, but I enjoyed visiting the Armory. Everything was so nice and well displayed, especially BEING. I feel like if BEING was to age more they would be able to answer more questions, and the questions Being couldn’t answer at 2 years old. My perspective of the exhibit was pretty good, I was able to see the stuff that was displayed, and I liked BEING, it was really interesting and funny. I learned that BEING is 2 years old and was probably smarter than everyone there combined. It was also able to answer questions that would probably take me time to think about. This trip to the Armory helped me get to know my classmates because they were expressing themselves in the questions they had asked BEING. And some think life’s unfair for people who aren’t from here. Some teachers also had a horrible past, they were called racial slurs, and some were treated with disrespect because of the place they come from. I would recommend people to go to the armory, it’s nice. I would go again.
In addition to the student feedback, three of Park Avenue Armory’s biggest collaborators with WHSAD shared their perspectives.
Neil Tyrone Pritchard
It was so amazing to FINALLY get so many WHSAD Students to the Armory. This trip feels like two years in the making. I’m always so proud of the risks the WHSAD community takes. The thing that is most special to me is the willingness of each student to experience the exhibit in ways that felt most organic to them. Some sat back and witnessed others take the class. Some got on the floor and engaged head-on. The artists at the Armory talked about how much they loved having conversations with the small breakout groups and loved how hands-on and brave the WHSAD teachers were.
Monica Weigel McCarthy
Having students from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design back at the Armory felt like a missing puzzle piece clicking into place- your insights and energy bring so much to the building and the art within it. And what was extra special about Assembly was that its interactive nature highlighted what an open and supportive community you all have built already this school year, despite all the obstacles thrown at you over the past two years. It felt like a community that gets excited about new experiences and creative ways to think and learn, both with and from each other, and the reality of that kind of community is why we love working with WHSAD. It was wonderful to have you here. Please come back soon!
The Joni Mitchell quote “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve ‘til it’s gone” comes to mind with I think about having WHSAD students back to the Armory to see Assembly. I realized, watching students walk through the great wooden doors toward the Drill Hall entrance, through which they caught early snatches of color, movement, music, and text from show… “Wow, the students are HERE and I think they’re gonna LOVE this.” I felt happy. You know, complete. As if I were exactly where I was meant to be. And I realized how much I missed hanging with students in this very specific, fun, and casual way.
Students perhaps have a lot of anxiety about the world right now. There are so many crazy things happening! And they may be searching for a clear and hopeful way forward. I think Assembly may have given them the means to articulate some of their feelings while also validating them. It definitely validated mine.