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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 Express “Dream” With Umbrellas

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By Claire Walla

This year, art teacher Meg Mandell pushed the limits of what her students could achieve in the Pierson Middle School art room. She took on a project that bridged artistic endeavor with social justice — and had real-world significance.

It started with an umbrella.

Mandell and 44 of her sixth grade students participated for the first time this year in a national movement called “The Umbrella Project.”

Started in 1990 by a woman in Washington D.C. named Hilda Brown, the project disperses white umbrellas to participants across the country who are then asked to decorate the silk panels. Each year, Brown chooses a new theme. This year’s happened to be “I Have A Dream.”

In August, the umbrellas will be part of an art show in Sedona, Ariz., where they will be sold for $50. All proceeds will be donated to the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C.

To prepare for the project, Mandell showed her students footage of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial, then asked them to jot down some ideas for how they might be able to translate those concepts into visuals.

“My idea was to have people holding hands on an umbrella that said ‘love’ all around it,” said sixth grader Aryanna Lyons. She worked together with five other students to turn this concept into an actual design.

“Everyone had really great ideas,” Lyons continued.  “It was really fun.”

Students ended up creating a variety of images, from umbrellas with individually designed panels incorporating words like “faith,” “hope” and “love,” as well as smiley faces, butterflies and rays of sun, to a more conceptual design featuring two birds, each draped across one half of the silk canopy.

“The kids really surprised me, they really rose to the occasion,” Mandell said. “I was impressed with how seriously they took it…. They knew other people were going to see their designs and they wanted to be proud.”

Mandell initially broke all students up into groups of five or six, and each group was assigned one umbrella. (In total, Mandell sent away for eight.)

“I labeled the roles for the students,” Mandell explained, saying some students colored and some drew designs, while others kept everyone on task, or became the team “go getter.” The only role Mandell hand-chose were the leaders, but other than that she said the students themselves naturally fell into comfortable positions on each team.

“It as amazing to see the different levels of skill [the kids exhibited],” she continued. “They all found a niche.”

The class also included several special education students.

“Every student had their hands in the project,” she added. “I really saw the best in the kids. They helped each other and were encouraging to one another.”

Mandell herself first heard about The Umbrella Project through her sister, Kerin Crowley, who teaches art in the Sachem School District. She said that after several years of administering the program, her students have come up with some impressive designs.

Mandell added that she’s excited to build upon what her students achieved this year, perhaps even turn it into a fundraiser for the school. (While The Umbrella Project asks for $50 per umbrella, schools and organizations are encouraged to sell the pieces of art for more money and then donate all profits.)

“Every year it’s going to get better,” Mandell added. “I will definitely be doing it again.”