NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — "Arts Alive” is the theme of the high-school-student art exhibit on display in the Art Gallery at Penn State New Kensington. The show opens March 6 and runs until March 31.
The Alle-Kiski Arts Consortium (AKAC), a group of local educators dedicated to bringing performing and visual arts to area students, sponsors the annual show. Students from five area high schools — Highlands, Valley, Deer Lakes, Kiski Area and St. Joseph's — provide the artwork.
“This show is one of the most anticipated exhibits each year at the campus,” said Theresa Bonk, director of student affairs at the campus and a member of the AKAC board. “The high school students can’t wait to see their work displayed knowing that our gallery gains much recognition for them through the web and other media.”
“It is important to validate the voices of our youth, they are our future. In just a few short years, their dreams and commentary will be what formulates how our society works."
— Christy Culp, art teacher at Deer Lakes High School
More than 500 two- and three-dimensional pieces, including paintings, drawings, sculpture and jewelry, will be hung salon-style, a European technique that dates back to the 17th century. Salon-style features a single exhibition room with artwork covering the walls in a collage-like pattern.
“It is important to validate the voices of our youth, they are our future and their thoughts, dreams and commentary will be what formulates how our society works in just a few years,” said Christy Culp, an art teacher at Deer Lakes High School.
“The Arts Alive exhibit allows our students to exhibit with their peers and understand how their voice and vision relates to the world,” she added. “My students begin planning for this exhibit in the fall. The show gives them the opportunity to be seen by their family and friends in a professional gallery setting.”
Culp and Kathleen Guglielmi, an art and art history teacher at St. Joseph High School, organized the show. Both practice what they teach as they, and other teachers throughout western Pennsylvania, exhibited their artwork in the gallery in January.
“Students worked hard all year and now come together to collaborate on an excellent exhibition with a variety of mediums from traditional to glass to mixed media sculpture,” Guglielmi said. “There is art covering almost every inch of the gallery walls from top to bottom. When you enter the gallery you are fully immersed in art and can really understand why we need to continue fostering the arts in the Alle-Kiski area.
One of the “young masters” is Isabel Horgan, a watercolor artist and photographer from St. Joseph. Horgan, a junior, competed recently in the Fairchild Challenge at Phipps Conservatory and Biological Gardens in Pittsburgh. She won first place in the “Companion Plants” category for her representation of the relationship between the shrub rose and English lavender. Her painting will hang at Phipps from March 31 to June 4.
In addition to her watercolor acumen, Horgan earned recognition for her photography prowess. She won three Silver Keys in the Pittsburgh Arts Region of the Scholastic Arts Awards competition. Her award-winning photographs are a part of the Arts Alive show.
Another notable student artist is Brooke Doran, a senior from Valley. Doran recently won a contest for designing a patch for the Critical Response Team, which comprises elite police officers form the cities of New Kensington and Lower Burrell. Her winning entry featured a white bird of prey with its wings spread centered in front of Pennsylvania's keystone symbol.
A reception for the secondary-school artists was held March 13, in the art gallery. In conjunction with the reception was the High School Performing Arts Showcase. Conceived two years ago, the performing arts component provided a public venue for creative students to display their theatrical acumen and musical talents.
"I love the concept of the art show and performing arts showcase,” Gugliemi said. “What I look forward to the most is seeing the students light up when they show their families their art on reception night.”
The participants received t-shirts designed by Natalie Gentile, a student at Highlands. Each year, an AKAC school is chosen to design a t-shirt, and Highlands had the honor this year. Highlands art teacher Teresa Emeloff challenged her students to create a design that represented all areas of the arts: visual, musical and vocal.
“I honestly wasn't expecting it to get picked to be on the shirt,” Gentile said. “I was really shocked.”
Gentile’s winning creation featured a tree composed of a random series of musical notes and g-clefts, comedy and tragedy theatre masks, brushes and pencils, and footprints and handprints. Twelve words — inspire, believe, create, imagine, dance, opportunity, art, outcome, work, support, and success — were replicated three times to frame the tree.
"I base everything off of nature when I draw,” Gentile said. “I think the tree connects everything together, from the leaves to the roots to the trunk. I feel like nature is art with a twist, so it was easy to connect it to my design.”
The exhibit, reception and performances are free to the public. The gallery is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and noon to 5 p.m. on the weekends.
“The art exhibit is a wonderful cooperative experience for the art students in the districts,” said Prissy Pakulski, an art teacher at Valley and former event coordinator. “The gallery at Penn State New Kensington produces an ambiance of professionalism, and students get a real gallery exhibition experience.”