Art Force 5: New Paltz students join SUNY “superheroes” inspiring creativity in NYC kids

From left: SUNY New Paltz Art Force 5 members Luis Lopez, Kyle Strandberg and Giuliana Ponterotto

Three Digital Media Production majors from SUNY New Paltz spent the summer as members of a comic book-inspired project that encourages children to use creativity as a means of resolving conflict.

Art Force 5 is a homegrown, SUNY-wide initiative that brings art “superheroes” to communities throughout the city to equip children with ideas for channeling their energy into creative outlets. This year saw the Art Force 5 team dispatched to communities in the city, mostly on Governors Island and in Harlem.

New Paltz students Giuliana Ponterotto ’21 (Digital Media Production; Asian Studies) of Manhattan, New York, Luis Lopez ’19 (Digital Media Production) of Brooklyn, and Kyle Strandberg ’20 (Digital Media Production) of Staten Island covered the film and media aspects of the program, creating numerous short films to help get its message out to the world.

“We were basically working to promote the ideology that it’s better to get your stress out through creativity than in conflict with other people,” Ponterotto said.

“The Polarizer” (Ponterotto’s superhero alter ego) joined the team looking for an opportunity to get some reps as a filmmaker, while also fulfilling the internship requirement for her Digital Media Production major.

She had dabbled in on-screen work and scriptwriting before, but over the course of the Art Force 5 experience she started to hone in on a new aesthetic style: a more hands-off approach to the creative process, which gave her videography space to speak for itself.

“I had a script for my first video or two from the program, and that made them informative, but I felt like the voiceover was overshadowing some of the shots I was getting,” Ponterotto said.

“It was definitely a learning experience. I started letting the shots and the actors tell the story, just adding chill, lo-fi beats that matched what I had filmed. I think it worked a lot better – the visuals told the story better than my voice ever could.”

Giuliana Ponterotto ’21 (Digital Media Production; Asian Studies)

Art Force 5 is effective because it combines opportunities for young professionals to develop their crafts, while also having a tangible, positive impact on people and communities.

“I witnessed these students repeatedly role model their passion for their SUNY college education to hundreds of young visitors,” said Dan Napolitano, assistant dean of the School of Art & Design at Alfred University and founder of the Art Force 5 program. “They needed to meet expectations set by supervisors and each other, build art in the pouring rain, and recognize their own flaws, all the while pretending to be an art superhero to every child who walked in the door.”

Art Force 5 is operated through Alfred University’s New York State College of Ceramics, and supported by the SUNY Performance Improvement Fund. Learn more at

SUNY New Paltz students interested in internship opportunities on- and off-campus should visit the Career Resource Center online, or contact their team at 845-257-3265 or