‘Art Connects’ at SAC
Winchester — The Shenandoah Arts Council’s annual Youth Art Month exhibit will showcase the artwork of even more children and teens than usual.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the exhibit, organizers introduced a new collaborative format that allows local art teachers to draw more of their students into the project, Executive Director Tracy Marlatt said. This year’s theme “Art Connects,” allowed students to take the exhibit in a variety of directions that show the wide scope of art.
The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through March 30 at the gallery, 811 S. Loudoun St. Admission is free and open to the public.
“You’re always proud when you reach a milestone,” she said. “Having done Youth Art Month for 10 years is wonderful.”
There will be a free opening reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the gallery. During the reception, Handley High School Principal Jesse Dingle will perform music with two students.
This year’s exhibit is also special because it is dedicated to a James Wood High School student, Rhett Goldizen, who died in October at the age of 17 and a senior at the school, Marlatt said. Much of the funding for the exhibit came from donations made to the arts council in lieu of sending flowers when he died of a gunshot wound.
The donations helped pay for 28 pieces of 3-by-9-foot canvas that went out to local schools to be decorated as group projects, she said. The schools were public and private institutions in Winchester and Frederick, Clarke and Warren counties.
Goldizen’s family also brought in some of the artwork he completed at James Wood, which will be featured in the front gallery.
Marlatt didn’t know Rhett, but she had heard when the family was looking for an organization to donate to, SAC was suggested because the teenager loved music and the visual arts. “We are happy to celebrate this young artisan’s life.”
Rhett loved to draw from an early age, especially people and birds, and planned to attend art college, said Steve Goldizen, his father. Having his son’s artwork on display in the gallery means a great deal to him.
“I am very proud of him. I am very proud for what he had accomplished at a young age,” Goldizen said. “I believe he would have really gone far with his talent.”
One of his favorite drawings Rhett did of a bluebird will be on display in the show. Goldizen said his youngest child was also fascinated by the “Mona Lisa,” especially her eyes. “He would draw figures of people’s faces and he would really zero in on their eyes.”
Rhett also loved music and played drums with a local heavy metal band, Metaphor and Memory, his father said. He recalled letting his children fall asleep to music when they were young so they “learned to love music as they were growing up.”
The combination of Rhett’s artwork alongside the large canvases will make the gallery full of bright colorful creations by students of all ages, Marlatt said.
On one canvas contributed by 13 sixth- and seventh-graders at Winchester Academy, a pair of large mismatched eyes stare out at the viewer.
Another by three James Wood High School students is an ode to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” showing two hands reaching toward each other. In this version, the fingers are connected by a Chinese finger trap.
The new format has the benefits of not only getting more children involved in the show but also of giving them the chance to work together on a piece of art, which is invaluable experience, said Kelly Purvis, who is coordinating the exhibit with fellow art teacher Allison DiGiovanni. The pair took over the responsibility this year from YAM’s creator, Barbara Sankovich, a former board member and art teacher.
“There is a different sense of ownership the kids have when it is something they created together versus something they created individually,” she said. “It connects the kids together.”
In the past, teachers selected three pieces of student artwork to represent their classes in the gallery, said Purvis, who teaches at John Kerr Elementary School. That meant only about 120 students had their work on display.
“I have a ton of kids participating. All my second-, third- and fourth-graders had at least some part in it,” she said.
For her canvas, Purvis took the theme and created the idea of a puzzle, with 16 distinct pieces that show the connections between art, the students, and different subjects they are learning. Puzzle piece topics include sharing ideas, subjects, such as social studies and science, and types of art such as photography and fashion.
Art teacher Janet Fabin gave students in her four art classes at Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School the basic idea that she wanted them to create a landscape. She left the rest up to them. One class created the foreground, decorating it with flowers, while another put buildings in the middle ground. The classes built off each other’s creativity, and every child had a chance to participate, she said.
As a result, she saw her students, who ranged from second to fourth grade, learn that when many people contribute to an idea, it becomes greater than what one person could have accomplished on their own, Fabin said.
“I was pleased with the way they worked together and accepted the fact that they did not have full control,” she said. “They had to give some control over to the other people. I had no arguing or complaining whatsoever. It was really nice to see them work together.”
Purvis said she hopes that as the month progresses, families will stop by the gallery and the children will show pride as they point to their contribution to their canvas.
For the last two years, several of the pieces from the Youth Art Month exhibit were taken to the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum to be displayed, a tradition that will continue this year, Marlatt said. After each canvas’s final display, it will be returned to its school to share with all the students.
The Youth Art Month exhibit opens Saturday and runs through March 30 at Shenandoah Arts Council, 811 S. Loudoun St. Admission is free and open to the public.
There will be a free opening reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday in the gallery, which is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and by appointment. Call 540-667-5166 or visit shenarts.org.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org