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.
“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.”
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.