Marina Gutierrez began working with the Saturday Program while she was an Art Student at The Cooper Union, and has been it’s director and champion for more than 3 decades.
In 1981, the student staff proposed that Marina Gutierrez be named Director of the Saturday program to ensure institutional memory and a future. Marina continued in that role until her retirement in September, 2020. (Doug Ashford was one of those students, who recommended Marina for the Director’s position, and is today a professor in The Cooper Union Art School). Marina has watched the Saturday Program evolve and has witnessed the growth in both understanding and confidence in thousand of young people.
Marina Gutiérrez has helped over 12000 NYC teenagers. The program helps 220 high school aged students per year. The program offers 7 courses. They are drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic design, sound composition and portfolio preparation. With the exception of portfolio preparation, the courses are open to any NYC high school student. There is no admission test or requirement to submit a portfolio for acceptance. Marina believes that any processes used to screen students excludes students with potential, simply because they have not yet had exposure to art.
1n 1986, Marina received the first grant from the NYS Council on the Arts for the Saturday program. The Council on the Arts has been a regular supporter since that year. One of the items that Marina secured a grant for was a portfolio class that teaches 12th grade students how to prepare a portfolio to be used when applying to art colleges. Marina teaches this class which is for high school seniors. This is the only course where students need to apply and be accepted.
The majority of the classes are taught by instructors who are current students in the Cooper Union School of Art. Marina and her staff built infrastructures to enable the teams of undergrad instructors to achieve teaching excellence, while modeling college success to their high school pupils. The instructors work in pairs and are responsible for preparing the curriculum that fits with the Saturday Program Pedagogy. There are also guest lecturers that teach writing and other academic or life skills. They are artists, poets, playwrights and other professionals.
Marina is someone that believes in the kids and is always looking for ways to better support them. She added guidance counseling, college workshops, and writing lessons to the Saturday Program. She helps the students build socialization, team building and leadership skills. They produce shows and they take trips to the studios of CU Alumni Artists.
About 90% of the students served by The Saturday Program attend college. The high success rate is accomplished via College workshops, and daily visits from program coordinator Aisha Bell (Saturday Program Alumnus).
Sadly, Marina has also been a witness to a growth in poverty among the students that the program serves. Beginning in 2008, she saw an increased number of students were unable to come to the Saturday classes because they could afford the travel costs and an increased number of students were arriving hungry. When a student has no money for the train, Marina gives them metro cards, and she always keeps food around for the students that are hungry.
Each year the Saturday program serves 220 students from NYC high schools in grades 9 through 12. The students do not have to show art work samples to be admitted to the program. Marina is committed to accepting students with no previous art instruction and believes that admission programs that require portfolio submissions discriminate against talent students with not exposure to the arts. There are 7 classes that the students take while in the Saturday Program. They are drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, sound composition, graphic design, and Portfolio preparation.
The portfolio preparation class is a class for high school seniors who are thinking about entering art or architectural programs and it prepares them for that application process.
Each of the classes (other than the portfolio preparation class) is taught by two Cooper Union Students who work together to develop the curriculum for the class for the year. Besides the two student teachers there are writing specialists who visit the classes. The writing specialists are playwrights, poets, theater professionals and Cooper faculty, These specialists collaborate with the student teachers so that the lessons they present fit into the course curriculum. Writing workshops are interwoven into each visual art curriculum bringing professional writers into collaboration with undergrad teams.
The students work together to produce two performances of the spoken word or poetry each year. One is held in December and one is held in April.
The students have an end of year exhibition that is usually held in April and it typically brings in about 300 people each year. The exhibition usually fills a full floor of exhibition spaces in the Foundation Building and spreads out on to the sidewalk where the students make elaborate chalk drawings.
The Saturday Program has connected generations. Students in the portfolio preparation course visit professional artists studios and exhibitions. (Including an annual trip to the beloved Jack Whitten.) By meeting artists, students can imagine the possibility of their own lives. Skills learned in class critiques launch students into art world dialogues.
Alumni from the Saturday Program inhabit the art world locally and internationally. In Oslo, architect Don Lawrence (originally Jamaican) won an award for design in the arctic. In Paris, Ellen Zhao produces prize winning graphic signage. In Phnom Phen, photographer Khiang used the Saturday Program curriculum to inspire a community of artists.