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Tsais fund Jean-Michel Basquiat art curriculum in New York schools

It didn’t end with the uniforms.

The Nets and Barclays Center announced Friday that the Joe and Clara Wu Tsai foundation if funding the inclusion of a Jean-Michel Basquiat curriculum in New York’s public schools. The program, underway in Brooklyn since April will now expand throughout the five boroughs. In addition, the team and arena will host an art show featuring 150 Basquiat-inspired pieces already created by middle and high school students in Brooklyn.

Basquiat, a Brooklyn native of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage who died in 1988, is of course the inspiration for the Nets’ popular City Edition jerseys.

The Basquiat art program was funded by the Tsai’s foundation, which as the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week, is on a “philanthropy streak.” In 2020, the Tsais established a Social Justice Fund to work toward economic mobility and racial justice for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in Brooklyn. The art program is part of that effort.

“This partnership has been all about creating new outlets for our students to express themselves, develop their passions, and find inspiration in the important contributions of Jean-Michael Basquiat,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. “We are thrilled to partner with the Brooklyn Nets on this initiative and can’t wait to see our students’ creations displayed at Barclays Center!”

During the 2020-21 school year, the city’s Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects (OASP) led a team of Brooklyn visual arts teachers in the creation and dissemination of the art unit that was taught to more than 1,400 middle and high school students across Brooklyn’s schools.

Throughout the two-month course, which tipped off in April, students studied various Basquiat works, “learning how art can both serve as a vehicle for communication and to facilitate societal change,” as the Nets said in a statement. Due to the course’s extraordinary reception, the program’s curriculum will now be expanded to all city public schools beginning this fall.

As they did when the uniforms were introduced in December, the Nets noted the legacy of the artist whose works are now worth tens of millions of dollars and are favorites of NBA players.

“Partnering with the NYC DOE and the Fund for Public Schools to create the first-ever Basquiat art unit for students was an incredibly special opportunity for our organization,” said John Abbamondi, CEO of BSE Global, the Tsai-owned parent company of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. “We are proud to represent Brooklyn and to help celebrate the cultural and societal impact our borough has had on the world. Basquiat is a great source of inspiration.”

The free-admission gallery will be open to the public on Sunday, Aug. 8 and Monday, Aug. 9 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. and located in the arena’s Geico Atrium. The private opening for the students will take place on Saturday, Aug. 7 from 4-6 p.m. For a look at some of the art that will be featured at Barclays Center, the project’s website.

The project was featured in a CBS This Morning piece that aired earlier this month and a Wall Street Journal story published last month.