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Make Your Own Lawrence Weiner

Lawrence Weiner. : Courtesy of Free Arts NYC

Bronx-born post-minimalist Lawrence Weiner, 76, is famous today for his deadpan-poetic conceptual text pieces. But he didn’t come from a fancy background — his father owned a candy store.

Earlier this spring, Weiner teamed up with Free Arts NYC, a nonprofit that works to make art more accessible to low-income children and teens in underserved communities of New York City. For this workshop, a group of Free Arts teens were given a conceptual “prompt” — in this case, “Not why I am born but now that I am born what do I do?” — and then tasked with reimagining his famous stencil ampersand (pictured above). Students were instructed to design their version of it symbolizing individuality “& me.”

“Meeting Lawrence Weiner was a strange but positive experience,” said Eren Bonnet, 15 (who joined Free Arts in the third grade as a part of the after-school program: “I was sort of forced actually.”) That day in his studio, Weiner “listened carefully to each future everyone had planned and gave careful, experienced advice. When he went to me, though, and I said ‘musician,’ he responded ‘Oh, well okay, good luck!’ Its funny because to me, somehow that was the best advice he had given the whole time. ‘Good luck,’ no experience to it, just do what you love, enjoy it, and if you’re lucky you may even be successful in it.”

Joyce Stephanie Rodriguez, also 15, was more on point with the lesson at hand. “Meeting him changed the way I think about art, as now I believe that art isn’t just a painting, it can be anything as long as it has some sort of meaning or inspiration to it.”

The results left Weiner pleased by “the level of sophistication they were able to engender. Now I am in awe of this generation of young people.”

Iqra Zab, age 17. Photo: Courtesy of Free Arts NYC
Jonathan Santos, age 16. Photo: Courtesy of Free Arts NYC
Eren Bonnet, age 15. Photo: Courtesy of Free Arts NYC
Joyce Stephanie Rodriguez, age 15. Photo: Courtesy of Free Arts NYC
Raven Ferrell, age 17. Photo: Courtesy of Free Arts NYC
Nishat Safica, age 17. Photo: Courtesy of Free Arts NYC
How to Make Your Own Lawrence Weiner