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In 2003 The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey asked me to paint and exhibit portraits of inner-city students it was mentoring in preparation for college. I painted 30 students with their favorite objects from The Newark Museum’s collection. The students modeled for many hours within the museum’s galleries.

There are 26 paintings in the Science Explorers series.

— Mary Alice Copp, 2012

Science Explorers Paintings Project

This exhibition of portraits features 26 students who participated in the last three years of The Newark Museum’s Science Explorers’ Program, which was founded in 1995. The Science Explorers Program is a three-year job and college preparedness initiative that provides education, employment, and mentoring opportunities to urban high school students. The Program’s core curriculum includes hands-on experiences, lectures, field trips, independent research, and internships at the Museum. All are designed to help the Science Explorers navigate a breadth of disciplines in the arts and sciences. In addition to paid on-the-job training, a brief sampling of students’ core learning experiences might include, for example, a Museum inquiry-based workshop on how the human brains learns, learning to blow glass in a studio setting, joining a human physiology class at UMDNJ, and visiting molecular research laboratories at the Public Health Research Institute.

The Museum is grateful to the artist, Mary Alice Copp, for creating this body of portraits. Copp paints solely from life, so students sat for the artist for an approximate total of ten hours as their portraits were completed. Each portrait shows Explorers posing in a gallery or with an object that they felt most expressed their identity and interests. The Explorers’ choice of objects or settings for their visual portraits help not only to reveal who they are, but what the Museum means to them.