Women's History Month: Judy Gelles


Judy Gelles is the Founder of the Fourth Grade Project, she begin this work in 2008 from a prototype born during her volunteer work at a Philadelphia inner-city school not far from where she resides. Over the past ten years Gelles has interviewed and photographed over 300 fourth grade students from the USA, China, England, India, Israel, Italy, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, South Africa, and South Korea.

Fourth Graders from around the world answer three questions:

Who do you live with?

What do you wish for?

What do you worry about? 

“Everything I do follows my life and what I’m doing with my life,” admits Judy Gelles, whose many projects, mostly in photography and video, document not only her personal and family history, but touch on the larger social issues of our times. 

We live in a digitally inter-connected global society. Yet the schools that she visited were surprisingly isolated. Judy noticed across all schools that the students had very little contact with or knowledge of people from cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds different than their own.

The stories from the Fourth Grade Project have the power to transform students’ worldviews. Our goal is to create a digital, interactive resource for educators around the world to use in their classrooms. Through structured learning experiences students will gain knowledge and empathy for children whose lives are different from their own. Understanding others’ hopes and fears will foster a greater commitment to global understanding, tolerance and acceptance. 

 To view Gelles’s TEDx talk about the project, click here.

“I use words and images to provide social commentary on who we are and how we think.  My objective is to provoke thoughts, ideas, and discussion. It is important to me that my work is accessible beyond the confines of the museum and beyond the “art community”. Judy Gelles, Fourth Grade Project

Learn more Fourth Grade Project by visiting here.

Elizabeth Sytsma