December and the City Again

We embarked on our second STAC journey on December 14, 2018. The adrenaline had been building up through every fiber of our beings as we waited for the bus to round the corner. It hadn’t even been two seconds before it halted to a stop as we bounced with joy, slowly hopping onto each step entering the bright mustard doors. The ride to the train station was short but filled with conversation about the day ahead. We reached the train station, rushed out of the bus, and went on our familiar way to end of the platform where we spent the time waiting, shooting pictures and videos, documenting our adventure. The train arrived and Luke’s anticipated call rang through air, “Use all the doors! Don’t be a blood clot! Use all the doors!” Every time we enter the train, a rush of nervousness runs through all of us: Is everyone on? Did I drop my phone through the crack? Did I get caught in the door? Once we find a seat the nervousness is completely forgotten and we go back to discussing our plans for the day.

Usually we take the train from Mineola to Penn Station but instead of our usual city bound train, we went from Mineola to Forest Hills and transferred to an E/M/R train to Queens Plaza Station where got of and continued on foot towards Sculpture Center. We arrived a bit early for our tour and decided to split for a quick coffee break. My group preferred the artisan coffee shop across the street, Toby’s Estate, rather than your now trending Starbucks. After ordering, we discovered the patio in the back and spent the remaining minutes there before heading back across the street to Sculpture Center. We regrouped inside the giant box that served as a gate to the gallery to watch the doors being unlocked by the tour guide. We hung our coats and bags in the cubbies behind the front desk and let the tour commence. For the next hour, we were shown around the gallery and saw extraordinary sculptures that show media in a new light. The room and basement consisted of monitors and televisions that tell of the artists’ pasts, thoughts, opinions, state of mind, and view of life overall. After the tour, as tradition, we all pulled out our cameras and had what seemed like a professional photoshoot, each of us interchanging between model, photographer, and location manager.

From Sculpture Center, we got back on the train and headed towards our neck of the woods: Manhattan. We were supposed to make our way to the Whitney but we made a last minute decision to stop at the David Zwirner Gallery to see the incredible works of Diane Arbus and Lisa Yuskavage. STAC has seen another Diane Arbus exhibit in previous years and it was a bit nostalgic to be reacquainted with her work. Lisa Yuskavage’s work, on the other hand, was like a breath of fresh air, new ideas and inspirations swirled around in our heads.

From there, we walked the Highline to the Whitney Museum to see Andy Warhol and broke into groups to make our wandering all the easier. Walking through the museum, you could see the wonder in the eyes of the STACies as we absorbed the work of Warhol and the other artists. Photoshoots materialized once again around the museum out of habit and allowed us to feel as if we were a part of the art, not just there to look at it. We made our rounds through the museum until we felt that we could no longer ignore our growling stomachs.

It was then that we made our way to Chelsea Market for lunch. Upon entering the industrial looking food court, the smells of food from all over the world was pleasantly overwhelming. We traveled down the corridor, our heads turning left and right trying to quickly read each and every sign, attempting to find a place that would satisfy our stomachs for the remaining hours of the trip. We each enjoyed our fusion of Asian, Tex-Mex, and French-American cuisine and headed back to the Whitney to regroup and continue our journey towards the theatre.

Once every STACie was accounted for, we headed off for the night’s entertainment, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”. The play tells the story of a Chicago gangster, named Arturo Ui, who is trying to take over the cauliflower packing industry; it’s an allegory to Hitler’s rise to power during the Holocaust. The play was incredibly written and the cast’s performance left us speechless. The show was the center of conversation for the next week. Our thoughts, opinions, jokes, and favorite parts were tossed around and analyzed until they were stripped to the core.

Our second STAC trip was deemed a success by all and we are all waiting patiently for the next one.

-- Styliani Rallis '19

So, I have Tourette Syndrome which means I make weird noises and movements sometimes yada yada yada. Luke nicknamed me “Puppy,” because when I make the  weird sounds I apparently sound like a small, helpless animal...a puppy. I don't mind this name at all, in fact, I kind of like it! I know it's out of love and not just another way to make fun of me. Well maybe a little, but it’s pretty funny! Anyways I was on my way to class, with multiple people from STAC texting me, wondering where I was. So I walk into the class, late with everybody chanting and shouting my name: “PUPPY! PUPPY! PUPPY!” My stomach immediately dropped. It was the same type of feeling that you get when you’re on an elevator going down. My heart started pounding out of my chest. I could feel myself smiling so hard. I could sense my cheeks blushing. I have not felt the same way that I did at that moment in a very long time.

I looked around the room to the heartwarming sight of everybody else's faces smiling right back at me. Then I noticed there was a very large chair in the smack in the center of the room. “Happy Shostegigi.” I have never heard of that name before. Considering I am new to STAC, I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into. That long, strange, and complicated name stands for “STAC Holiday Stealth Gift Giving." Which basically means Secret Santa with a twist. A month prior to this day, everybody in the class was given a specific person to get a gift for and create a handmade gift. This year we had to make a small, mini “closet.” These closets had to represent the person you were given. They could be filled up with little stuff that reminds you of the person, or whatever you wanted to do. On this day, we were presenting the closet to the class. It was up to them to figure out who it belonged to. So it is a guessing game based on a small mini closet.

So let’s fast-forward a little. I'm sitting down on the table, because us STACies are weird like that. I'm watching everybody present their closets and give gifts to their people. The next person that went up was someone that I was sitting right next to while she was making it. Because of this, I was so sure it couldn’t have been mine. So she continued to show off her closet and it was very… Me. While she was making it, I never really noticed that everything on her box complimented me perfectly. Inside the closet was jewelry and I am always wearing chains and rings. There were “Halsey” album covers painted on one side of the outside. I’m a really big fan of her music. There were also a lot of hip-hop things showing. My name was written in graffiti, and pictures of hip hop dancers. I am a hip-hop competitor. Basically hip-hop is one of my favorite things in this world. Yet it still hadn’t clicked in my head that it was my closet. Styliani, who was the girl that made the closet and was presenting it, said, “If you still don’t know whose closet this is...” She turned the box around to reveal a big picture of a puppy. The picture of the puppy had eyebrows drawn onto it. She did that because I wasn’t very blessed with the gift of nice eyebrows. When ever we go on a STAC trip, I always do my eyebrows. It’s kind of like my inside joke within STAC.

At this moment, it definitely had clicked. I automatically started crying. I was so happy. I felt so loved. I felt wanted. I was given a chance to really fit in. I have had a rough past. I have never really felt this way in school before. It finally felt like this puppy was no longer a stray. This puppy had found her family. I got up off of the table and excitedly got my closet. I also got a Champion hoodie that I love so much. We all started singing “Puppy is the champion,” to the tune of “We Are The Champions.” It gave us a nice laugh after a happy cry. Then, I sat on my Secret Santa’s lap and we got our picture taken. We got up, hugged each other, and I then presented my closet, so the next person could have as exciting of a moment as I did! This is a day I will never ever forget!

-- Jessie Alexander

An unfortunate reality of growing older is the gradual loss of holiday celebrations in school. In highschool especially, fun seems to be on the bottom of everyone’s priority list as opposed to the crowd favorite kindergarten where everyday seems to be a party. In STAC, however, we manage to have both large work output as well as the occasional off day. One of our annual celebrations is “STACSGIVING," a play on words deriving from “Thanksgiving," a holiday almost every American is familiar with. Each year, one day before we start Thanksgiving break, all of the students in STAC come together and contribute whatever they can to create a feast like no other, a feast that not even our entire class could finish.

If you were to walk into STAC this year on STACSGIVING at the start of the period, it would be understandable for you to have been at first deceived. You would have been met with an ordinary looking classroom with no food in sight. But, when everyone was done shuffling in from their last class, the room transformed before your eyes.

Tables moved across the room forming one large dining table. One of the tables, deemed our buffet table, was dressed in a festive tablecloth, ready for our prized dishes. The display was not that of the ordinary juice box and chocolate chip cookie combo, it was one of: hand made spring rolls from one of our freshman, Jeremy, four trays of restaurant quality chinese food from another freshman, Christy, a tray full of questionable mac and cheese from our seniors as well as a much less questionable tasting croc-pot of mashed potatoes, homemade spanakopita from our in-house Greek, Styliani, a delicious serving of eggplant parmigiana from our in-house grandma in training, Audrey, and an unorthodox yet fantastic tasting Hungarian beef stew from our very own teacher, Luke. And so, after the food was laid out, the feast began. The rest of the day was full of smiles and full stomachs, the perfect end to the last school day before break.

Our celebration not only shows our love for food and awareness for a needed break, but it also alludes to the relationship that every student forms when joining STAC. Every class strives to be as close to a family as possible, and in STAC we achieve that. Everyone participates in STACSGIVING, and everyone does so willingly. If a student is not bringing in a dish, they are probably contributing drinks, utensils, plates, or napkins.
Instead of forming our own little cliques and sitting in different areas of the room, we sat together because we are all friends. In fact, the food is really just an accessory to the bonds that have been formed throughout the first few weeks of the class. STAC is an experience like no other in high school, and STACSGIVING is just one of the unique experiences available in the program. No matter how old you are, everyone could use a break every once in a while, and in STAC we provide that.

-- Giacomo Scilla '19

50 years ago this week the Beatles released an album called "The Beatles," but because of its plain white packaging, is better known as "The White Album." Like most Beatle things it is full of great songs and interesting creative thinking. There is always an idea to steal from a Beatles record.

We are pretty huge Beatles fans in STAC, so we've been listing and tearing apart songs, and figuring out how these songs and sounds were assembled in addition to all the other work in class. Busy few weeks.

About two months of school and we've already made so much stuff: multiple drawings, paintings, a bunch of songs written, a bunch of plays.

It was October 19th. The day had finally come. The first STAC trip of the year.  The plan was to take the train into the city, first stop, Neue Gallery, second Cooper Hewitt, and end the night with a play, Bernhardt/Hamlet. In the weeks leading up to the trip, our teacher, Luke, introduced us to the many artists whose works inhabited Neue Galerie. Every day, he’d take us further and further into the endless realm of art history. Soon enough, we began to create our own art in the specific styles we discussed, and we saw some pretty neat results. We got to display them in the art wing and watched as students lingered by the STAC Room, in awe of the peculiar faces we drew. So when we were given the chance to see the artwork of the first artists to bring these styles to life, we seized it and that experience has been immortalized through our unconventional artwork. We had the honor of regarding Woman in Gold, a timeless painting, by Gustav Klimt, encrusted with gold. The painting is packaged with a history just as valuable as the gold leaf that bejewels the masterpiece. We also saw the beautiful work of Franz Marc, August Macke, and Egon Schiele.

What is incredible about STAC trips is the independance you are permitted. You are valued as an adult, unlike typical field trips, where you often feel like a five-year-old holding onto one of those Hold-A-Ring Walking Ropes. Like actual human beings, we dispersed into groups of five or six and wandered about as we pleased.

Next stop. . . Cooper Hewitt. This museum was insanely cool. It was filled with extraordinary exhibitions like the Immersion Room, in which you can design a pattern and project it all over the walls at full scale. Another exhibit showcased numerous lightboxes with a certain situation engraved on the top, alongside a specific scent. One of the situations read something similar to “Loving someone intensely, but realizing that they don’t feel the same way." The odd thing was that the scents were weirdly accurate. Other exhibits include a wall covered in fur that produced orchestral sounds when stroked and a recreation of the first snowfall of the winter with only scent and sensation. That last one was literally a display of wool balls, some jingle bells, blue fringe, and a carpet, but when you closed your eyes and walked around on the cushiony material below you, it felt exactly like fresh powdered snow beneath my converse.

It was pure enjoyment, as art should be. We were like a bunch of kids playing around with all of the exhibits, trying to catch feathers midair at The Fountain of Feathers exhibit. It was truly magnificent because it served as something much larger, but to us, it was just fun. Cooper Hewitt allowed us to explore the unconventional areas of art while enjoying ourselves and getting closer to each other. This trip occurred pretty early in the school year and some of us were still hesitant with each other, but by the end of this trip, we were family.

And to end with a bang, we saw a show! The play was titled Bernhardt/Hamlet, and it followed the story of actress Sarah Bernhardt as she tackled the role of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The show was remarkable. It was both empowering and entertaining. I would find myself laughing so hard at times that I was bent over and the next moment, I felt tears welling in my eyes. We learned about Sarah Bernhardt, so like the artwork we had seen a few hours before, we had developed a personal connection to this show as well.

There’s never a dull moment on a STAC field trip. These trips are one of the most significant experiences in STAC and they will stay with you. They constantly remind me that STAC is exceptional not only because of the incredible art we create, but the people behind it.

-- Emily Sinner