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Annual Exhibitions Showcase the East End’s Young Artists and Their Teachers

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The opening of last year's Student Art Show at the Parrish Art Museum.

The opening of last year’s Student Art Show at the Parrish Art Museum. (Photo provided by the Parrish Art Museum).

By Tessa Raebeck

A giant beehive you can crawl into, a field guide to Sag Harbor’s ponds and the surrealism of Salvador Dali captured on a plastic plate are just some of the projects to look forward to at this winter’s student art festivals.

If you attended public school on the East End, chances are you were featured in the student shows at East Hampton’s Guild Hall or the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. A new batch of young artists are now getting their turn; the Student Art Festival at Guild Hall opened January 18 and the Parrish will exhibit local students starting February 1.

“The annual Student Exhibition is an important tradition for the Parrish,” said Cara Conklin-Wingfield, the museum’s education director. “It’s a way we honor the work of regional art educators and connect with children and families in the community.”

The tradition started over 60 years ago, although the exact date is unknown. Conklin-Wingfield knows it’s been a long time, as her 70-something year old aunt remembers being in the show as a kid.

In addition to fostering local talent, the student shows aim to support and showcase art educators and highlight the work they’re doing in classrooms across the East End.

At the Parrish, teachers for pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade students submit group projects, as a single work or individual works assembled into a mural.

The third and fourth grades from Sag Harbor Elementary School (SHES) will be featured at the Parrish.

Led by art teacher Meg Mandell, “Sag Harbor Ponds – A Child’s Field Guide” incorporates the work of the 3D, 3GK, 3K and 3SC third grade classes. The large mural includes an information key and “other fun facts about our local ponds,” Mandell said, assembled onto a 3D two by four foot replica of the guide, which is now available in the school library.

A 3rd grader hard at work on "Sag Harbor Ponds - A Child's Field Guide" in Meg Mandell's art classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School.

A 3rd grader hard at work on “Sag Harbor Ponds – A Child’s Field Guide” in Meg Mandell’s art classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. (Meg Mandell photo).

“The SHES art department,” Mandell said, “understands the importance of using art as a learning tool for other subject areas…We often collaborate with teachers to help our students understand the curriculum better and make the learning fun.”

Mandell worked with science teacher Kryn Olson and librarian Claire Viola in developing the project and visited the local ponds to collect reference materials.

The fourth grade, led by art teacher Laurie DeVito, has created a large 3D sculpture for the Parrish, made of plates inspired by various art disciplines.

DeVito taught each class about a different style of art, used a game to decide the individual subject matter (animal, vegetable, mineral, etc.), and led the group in creating mixed media pieces on plastic plates, which resemble stained glass windows when held up to the light. The plates will be displayed on pretend cardboard brake fronts supplied by Twin Forks Moving.

After learning about Van Gogh, the 4LS class made impressionistic plates. 4C read a book about Salvador Dali and created plates with surrealistic subjects like flying pigs and other “really imaginative subject matter,” DeVito said. 4S did realism plates and after looking at work by Picasso, 4R made cubist designs.

“I think it makes it more special for them,” DeVito said of the Parrish show. “It makes it more grown up and I think it applies a good kind of pressure.”

Having done a micro biotic organism last year, this year the Hayground School evolved to insects and is assembling a giant beehive on site.

“It’s a beehive that you can go in,” Conklin-Wingfield said, adding Hayground’s projects are always “really ambitious.”

One of Laurie DeVito's 4th grade classes at Sag Harbor Elementary School with their Surrealist Plate Cupboard.

One of Laurie DeVito’s 4th grade classes at Sag Harbor Elementary School with their Surrealist Plate Cupboard.

In its 22nd year, the Student Art Festival at Guild Hall is separated into two parts, high school students and those in Kindergarten through the eighth grade. Sag Harbor is only participating in the high school show.

Highlights include farmland paintings from Wainscott students, Japanese Manga drawings from Shelter Island, Cityscape Line Designs from Bridgehampton and a Monet water lilies triptych made by the Liz Paris’ Kindergarten class at Amagansett.

“That’s really exciting to see,” said Michelle Klein, the Lewis B. Cullman Associate for Museum Education at Guild Hall. “And again, because it’s Kindergarteners, it’s really amazing.”

When you first enter the show, a large 68 by 72 inch nature print made by Montauk students using leaves, sticks, bark and other natural materials is on display.

“It’s our opportunity to really give back to the community and for us to be able to exhibit our local young talent, the possible artists of the future,” said Klein.

“It’s really great,” she added, “to provide an outlet and a space for this exhibition. It’s exactly what we’re here for and why we do it.”

The 2014 Student Exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum will be on display from February 1 to March 2. For more information, call 631-283-2118 ext. 130. The Student Art Festival at Guild Hall is being shown January 18 to February 23 for younger students and March 8 to April 20 for high school students. For more information, visit guildhall.org.

Students Offer Their Take on Portraiture

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web student Portraits for Parrish_5117

By Emily J. Weitz

For the past six weeks, the Parrish Art Museum has showcased “American Portraits: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum.” With portrait paintings spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, the museum delves deep into the riches of its own collection.

But on the tail end of this exhibit, another body of work will be revealed. Inspired by American Portraits, school age children across the East End have created their own portraits, and these wildly colorful and energetic pieces will be on display in Students View American Portraits, with an opening reception this Saturday, December 3 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Laurie DeVito, art teacher at Sag Harbor Elementary School, adores this opportunity to work with the Parrish.

“We have such a rich artistic community here in Sag Harbor,” she says. “And it’s a great opportunity to tap into some of our resources.”

DeVito believes that when the students go to the Parrish and other cultural institutions on the East End, they are inspired in their own work to then go back to the classroom and create; the creative juices flow.

It’s one thing to go to a museum and look at the work on the walls. But with an effort like Students View American Portraits, “The experience is interactive,” says DeVito.

After visiting the museum, Sag Harbor Elementary students went back to the art room to make their own portraits. Each grade tackled a different assignment. Kindergarteners utilized shells and seaweed and other treasures that Meg Mandell, the other art teacher, had gathered on the beach.

Mandell gestures to the dozens of giant clam shells on one table in the art room.

“I’ve been going to the beach to collect things since the summer, knowing we would use them for our projects,” she says.

The students decorated the clam shells to make little faces, complete with seaweed hair, stone noses, moustaches, and googly eyes. Older kids worked on more traditional portrait paintings, or sculptures, or collaborative pieces. All the projects fall under the umbrella of portraiture, and the students were able to explore different interpretations of that idea.

In the art room at Sag Harbor Elementary, students’ work is bursting from the walls, filling the tables, and standing in the middle of the room. Their work is displayed throughout the school.

“And at the end of the year, we also have an opportunity for the kids to show their work in the school, when we invite parents to see what they’ve been doing,” says DeVito.

But this is different. The Parrish is a real museum, where work of some of the greatest artists in history has been showed.

For the students, “This is a real sense of pride,” says DeVito. “When they see their work displayed in the museum, it gives them a lot of confidence.”

Mandell chimes in that “It’s an affirmation of what they’re doing.”

Students’ work will be carefully shipped over to the Parrish in time for opening day, at which time students, families, and friends will be invited to a free reception to view the work on display for the first time.

“The kids always run right over to see their work, first, of course,” says DeVito.

In addition, there will be food, drinks and entertainment, including a juggler, face painting, and other kid-friendly activities. This event is open to the public, and it’s a chance to see the work that Sag Harbor students are doing as well as kids from other districts.

“We definitely get ideas from other schools,” says Mandell.

“And they get ideas from us,” adds DeVito. “I think it’s a great time to see the amazing work our students are producing. We’re a very artistic community and that is evident in the work.”

This exhibition was open to all Pre-K through 8th grade students in Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, and Southold townsips. In another upcoming exhibition, high school students from Brookhaven, Riverhead, East Hampton and Southampton will have work on display, and there will be a competition for high school seniors.

The student art show is “one of my favorite exhibits that the Parrish does,” says DeVito. She adds slyly that she’s “not at all biased. But seriously. It is so incredibly colorful and creative. It’s a lot of fun.”