Kicking off a series of appearances to celebrate the fourth anniversary of her anti-childhood-obesity initiative, the first lady and fitness advocate visited Manhattan's New Museum to see a street-art-inspired exhibit that aims to make its pro-hydration message eye-catching.
Mrs. Obama signed a massive paint-by-numbers artwork created for the show and gave her thoughts, and hugs, to eighth-graders who helped paint it and created a poster of their own.
"You guys are going to make a huge, huge impact on the health of our nation," she said, noting that plans call for taking the show to museums and galleries in Washington and other cities around the country.
"The fact that you guys can be involved in something this huge and exhibit this kind of creativity all over the country is like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so you should feel very excited," she said, "because I certainly am."
Mrs. Obama has made children's wellness a focus of her work as first lady, launching her "Let's Move" effort in February 2010 with the goal of helping children reach adulthood at a healthy weight. She plans to highlight progress and announce new health and wellness initiatives in the coming week, with events planned in Miami; in Bowie, Md.; and at the White House.
She also was set to appear Thursday during comedian Jimmy Fallon's inaugural week as the new "Tonight Show" host, and she scheduled interviews with "Extra," "The Rachael Ray Show," NBC's "Today," and "Despierta America," a weekday morning program on Univision, the Spanish-language television network.
Meanwhile, the first lady has released a brief video asking people to post photos and video on social media platforms to "show me how you move."
She strolled through the New Museum exhibit with Rose Cameron, a mother who started an offbeat bottled-water brand called WAT-AAH! to appeal to children. The company is collaborating on the exhibit, which features work by 14 artists.
Trey Speegle looked on as Mrs. Obama penned her name on his 6-by-16-foot canvas, printed with part of a vintage paint-by-number seascape and emblazoned with the words "drink up." Speegle created a painting in honor of President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign and said he felt "like it's come full circle" after meeting Mrs. Obama.
More than a dozen students from Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, a private school in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, had filled in part of the number-coded canvas.
While they've heard the drink-water message before, "it does make a difference when you share with people" and use art to present it "in a way that makes people really listen," Sophia Stewart-Chapman, 13, said after meeting and greeting Mrs. Obama with an enormous smile. "She's one of my idols," the teenager said.
When the first lady asked about other issues they were studying, the eighth-graders ticked off a roster: environmental pollution, gun violence, sex trafficking, post-traumatic stress disorder.
"You guys are so—you're on it," Mrs. Obama said. "I feel, now, comforted to turn the world over to you. Because we're going to do that, you realize."
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report from Washington.
Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter (at) jennpeltz.