At HSAD, the Sky is the Limit

By Charlotte Muth (The Horticultural Society of New York)

On June 7, 2021, the High School of Art and Design—located on East 56th Street between Second and Third—unveiled a new outdoor classroom space, created in collaboration with the Horticultural Society of New York.

With student health and wellness in mind, the goal of the almost 5,000-square-foot project was to create a lush student-designed, planted and maintained space. The Hort’s Education and Design Team first presented to the architecture staff and students in October of 2019. Student groups completed a participatory design meeting in December and perfected their designs for a February presentation. The student body voted on the design, and, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, installation began in spring of 2020. With a foundation of 170 bags of soil, twelve rectangular planters and eight fiberglass egg pots, students planted flowering trees, evergreen shrubs and hundreds of perennials to create a living oasis. Every step of the process was infused with creativity, as the high school’s young professional artists also documented the installation via film and photography.

This project was made possible in part from a generous allocation from Council Member Keith Powers through A Greener New York City Initiative, which supports programs related to environmental education, advocacy, community service, and green-job training, contributing to the improvement and conservation of the city’s air, land, energy, open spaces, and other resources.

When Council Member Powers arrived at 11:00 AM, the group of students, faculty, staff and parents gathered in a circle to witness the ribbon cutting. Pamela Ito, the Director of Education at the Hort, began the ceremony by introducing the students to the project, and pointing out the different kinds of plants in the space, such as lavender, chamomile, eastern redbud, laceleaf maple, astilbe, daisy and lobelia. Ito handed a pair of cartoonishly large scissors to the Council Member, who introduced himself and expressed how pleased he was to see this project become a reality.

Next, Principal Maximillian Re-Sugiura addressed the students: “As Council Member Powers said, this is only Phase 1. In continuing to design this space, and developing murals, doing other wall paintings, and other representative art, it’s important that we continue to come together and work together to make sure that whatever we do with this shared space represents our school culture and our vast identity. Council Member Powers represents the East Side of Manhattan, but our students are from all over New York, representing dozens of languages, heritages, cultures and ethnicities, and thousands of identities that are each beautiful, unique and should be represented here. So, enjoy it right now! It’s in its baby stage, but it’s a really good start.”

At last, the time arrived to cut the ceremonial ribbon. Council Member Powers, Principal Re-Sugiura, Pamela Ito, and several students posed for a photo opportunity and with a slice, the red ribbon fluttered to the floor. For the next hour, the guests enjoyed refreshments, sunshine and fresh outside air. 

Photos (taken by Charlotte Muth & HSAD Photography Students):

From left to right:
Principal Maximillian Re-Sugiura, five students, Council Member Keith Powers, & Pamela Ito



Students in the garden



Students in the garden



Red, yellow and blue planters, in honor of the HSAD logo.



High School of Art & Design, in collaboration with the Horticultural Society of New York