The Fourth Grade Project, new exhibition at Chandler Museum, on view April 23- Aug. 11

April 10, 2024
Photo from The Fourth Grade Project exhibit at Chandler Museum

CHANDLER, Ariz. – In the past decade, acclaimed artist Judy Gelles interviewed and photographed more than 300 fourth-grade students from a wide range of economic and cultural backgrounds in China, England, India, Israel, Italy, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, South Africa, Dubai, South Korea and multiple areas of the United States. At each school, she asked the same three questions: Who do you live with? What do you wish for? What do you worry about? The exhibition highlights the commonalities and differences of childhood throughout the world. The Fourth Grade Project is on view April 23 - Aug. 11 at the Chandler Museum.

Told in their own words, these children’s stories touch on some of our most common human experiences and urgent social issues. Their stories include the following topics: violence, immigration, the demise of the nuclear family, global hunger, and the impact of the media and popular culture. Portraits from both the front and reverse accompany the students’ responses. In all the portraits, the children are presented as individuals; however, their stories speak to greater truths and problems within society.

Judy Gelles said, “A notable commonality across all schools is that every group of fourth graders has very little contact with or knowledge of people from cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds different than their own. Nine-year-old children are on the cusp of adolescence. They are able to think critically and consider relationships to be very important. They are socially conscious, interested in helping others, and openly curious about the world. It is also a moment in children’s development when worldviews start to become entrenched and paths for the future start to become more set. The project allows students to learn about others’ lives in a uniquely personal way and to use the project as a catalyst for their own explorations.”

To add local voices to this exhibition, Chandler Museum staff met with local fourth graders at Galveston Elementary School to get their responses to the same three questions featured in the exhibition. Those responses will be on display alongside the worldwide comments.

The Fourth Grade Project will be on view at Chandler Museum April 23 - Aug. 11, 2024. Chandler Museum is located 300 S. Chandler Village Drive. It is open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m. and closed on Mondays. Admission is free.

Find more information on the exhibitions and programming online at or by calling 480-782-2717.

The Fourth Grade Project is organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Image Credit: Judy Gelles, Grade Teacher, St. Lucia, Public School, 2015; digital print on Diabond; 25 x 20 inches, Courtesy of Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia.

Chandler Museum is an innovative learning environment where the community comes together to share our stories, store our cultural heritage, and experience Chandler as a people and place. The vision of the Museum is to be the community’s principal resource to explore its people’s history, culture, and place in a rapidly changing world of today – within and without the walls of a building. Find more information at Chandler Museum.

About ExhibitsUSA
This exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than twenty-five exhibitions on tour to over 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. For more about ExhibitsUSA, email ExhibitsUSA or visit ExhibitsUSA.   

About Mid-America Arts Alliance
Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout our region and beyond. Additional information about M-AAA is available at Mid-America Arts Alliance.   

About the Artist
Judy Gelles (1944–2020) received her MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and her Master’s in Counseling from the University of Miami. She had a longtime focus on themes of family and children, with work in major collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She had residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Visual Studies Workshop, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. In 2013, Critical Mass listed her as one of the top 50 photographers in the US. In 2015, she presented The Fourth Grade Project as a TEDx talk. Her work has been featured in Ms. Magazine; Vision Magazine, Beijing, China; Camerawork; New Art Examiner; Artweek, and Photography Now

Media contact:  
Jillian Nakornthap
Exhibits Curator, Chandler Museum