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Most innovative concepts are really very simple, and this one is no exception: Exploring the intrinsic beauty found in fresh fruits and vegetables encourages children to make smart food choices that also happen to be delicious.

That’s what the community of professional artists known as Studio in a School thinks, at any rate. For 35 years, the organization has fanned out into schools to lead classes in drawing, printmaking, painting, and sculpting, and to work with teachers in connecting art with academic subjects. Nutrition seemed like a natural outgrowth, and in 2010 Studio collaborated in part with Teachers College, Columbia University, to create the first seven-week “Art & Healthy Living” program for fourth graders.  So far, 75 under-served schools in all five boroughs have participated, and each program ends with an art exhibition.

You’ll find more than 50 works currently on view until March 14 at the Studio in a School gallery, at 1 East 53rd Street; hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Last week’s opening reception was distinguished not only by the blaze of talent and ability evident on the walls but by the artists’ modesty and maturity, characteristics all too rarely seen at this sort of event. When complimented on his drawing of a carrot, Jordan Collet (above), from P.S. 297, in Brooklyn, said, “Why, thank you so much,” then graciously turned to include his sister and grandmother in the conversation.

Jordan is the student of Elaine Greenstein, author-illustrator of numerous books for pre-schoolers and young readers, and a longtime friend. I was struck by the balance of boldness and delicacy in Jordan’s drawing. “He always seems to have a definite direction in mind when he begins,” Elaine said. “And he enjoys trying a new medium.”

All her students used a reed pen. “You must focus hard to control the pen and ink, and look very hard at the object you are drawing from observation,” she explained. “Because we used India ink, which makes a permanent stain if spilled, everyone also had to concentrate on being careful. I think the combination helped the students make extraordinary work.”

I imagine they were also inspired by Elaine’s passion for food. The daughter of a third-generation professional baker, Elaine has worked as a pastry chef and is one of those enviable people who will stage an elaborate dinner party at the drop of a hat. Her books often revolve around culinary pleasures, whether the invention of one of the world’s greatest sweet treats in Ice Cream Cones For Sale! or the enormous prize-winning vegetables in Mrs. Rose’s Garden.

Elaine’s protégés would view Mrs. Rose’s radishes, the size of dinner plates, with knowledgeable eyes. They’ve learned that radishes, like carrots, are taproots. “Roots store energy,” one girl said to her beaming mother. “That’s what you get when you eat ’em.” Another child tugged a younger sibling toward an oil pastel. “Did you know carrots come in different colors?” she asked. “They all crunch the same, though,” she added reassuringly. “They’re good.”

New ideas taking root. Photo courtesy of Studio in a School

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