New faces in the art world

"Of all the art exhibits to hang, the big, conglomerate group show could be hardest. As with the Intermediate and Middle School Art Show at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, there are a lot of objects that have to go somewhere.For the curator, envisioning what fits on what wall, giving each artist their due while shaping the whole is arguably as much a creative exercise as making the art in the first place. What I did, BAC Director Janice Shaw said, was to allocate space based on the number of students a particular teacher had. Shaw and eight art educators do a remarkably good job of coherently packing about 175 student works into one small room. This year the private schools on the island were invited to submit work. Joint public-private school ventures are rare, and so the show is a watershed of sorts. Participating schools are: Sakai Intermediate School; Woodward Middle School; Hyla Middle School; Odyssey Multiage Program; Bainbridge school district's Home School Support Program; Carden Country School; Bainbridge Island Kinderhaus and Waldorf Grade School; Voyager Montessori and Island School. Meeting all the other art teachers was a great side-effect, Island School's Peggy Vanbianchi said.Teachers agreed that interaction was an unexpected benefit, adding that they would enjoy more opportunities to gather. Work ranges from knitting to geometric design studies, from the polished to the ad hoc.The objects on the wall naturally vary student to student, but equally discernible is the imprint of the personality, experience and approach of the teachers. One also gets an impression of the emphasis each school places on its art program.The Island School's 5th grade students, with Voyager and the Waldorf school students, represented the show's younger contingent.Vanbianchi's students painted still-lives and animals on plexiglass so that one views the image through the plastic. Sakai's M.J. Linford comes from a printmaking background, so she is strong in technique. She is also a highly experienced teacher who runs a creative, but never chaotic, classroom.Her students mastered a variety of techniques in their intricate artists' books. Each piece features origami, poetry, flip book pages, receding concentric circles and more. It is a complicated project for 5th graders; Linford laid out the approximately 40 steps in a sequential flow chart as a guide - and ultimately as a record of their accomplishment.While the format of the books is fairly uniform, the content of each book is individual. Linford notes how much more invested in content these students are than they were when they were younger. In 5th grade, they're beginning to do abstract thinking, Linford said, so they can think about their own imagery and understand what that means. Then when they're really given free reign to explore, you really see it.Darcy Herrett, Woodward's art educator, first taught Maori students in New Zealand, 1984 and has taught for 15 years in the Bainbridge district. She used to have the whole BAC space for her middle school students, but she welcomes the addition of the private schools. Herrett's students' made strong works. The students were also, with Carden's 8th graders, the oldest represented. Her students made masks that started with plaster casts of the students' faces. Many are lovely. Herrett had the wisdom to gear the project to the young teens' developing identity. Calling the masks the story behind the mask, she had the students write about their ideas before they made them. Jocelyn Moody divided her mask in two. One half is realistically-rendered, and the other wildly colored and alive with plant an animal life. Ben Zikian bisected his face as well, half a realistic rendering and half a delicately-sculpted skull. This is my mild calm side; this is my crazy mischievous side, he wrote. Peter Lucier's mask, Guardian of Honor, defies description but is worth seeing. Many others are engaging, funny, thoughtful pieces in the show - too many to mention. Before the exhibit comes down, Shaw will evaluate it. I'm learning, too, Shaw said. We're all learning. "

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