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City art teachers curate exhibit featuring young artists

  • Students in Jen Reed's kindergarten class at Jackson Street School pose with some of their self-portraits on display in the hallway of the school. From left are Camilla Brewer, Caitlin Carbery, Cassidy Richardson, Amelie Acevedo Velez, Ean Redmond, Romy Malquist and Chloe Comerford Hennessey.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Students in Jen Reed's kindergarten class at Jackson Street School pose with some of their self-portraits on display in the hallway of the school. From left are Camilla Brewer, Caitlin Carbery, Cassidy Richardson, Amelie Acevedo Velez, Ean Redmond, Romy Malquist and Chloe Comerford Hennessey.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Herschel Levine, an art teacher at JFK Middle school, works with student, Destiny Ren,13, of Northampton in a class Monday morning.

    Herschel Levine, an art teacher at JFK Middle school, works with student, Destiny Ren,13, of Northampton in a class Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alex Mikaelian,13 of Northampton, works on a surreal shoe drawing in his art class at  JFK Middle school Monday morning. <br/>

    Alex Mikaelian,13 of Northampton, works on a surreal shoe drawing in his art class at JFK Middle school Monday morning.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nick Sandoval,13, of Northampton with his surreal shoe drawing  he did in art class at JFK Middle school  Monday morning. <br/>

    Nick Sandoval,13, of Northampton with his surreal shoe drawing he did in art class at JFK Middle school Monday morning.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jackson Street School fifth graders used clay and plaster gauze in the making of these masks on display in the entrance hallway of the school. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Jackson Street School fifth graders used clay and plaster gauze in the making of these masks on display in the entrance hallway of the school.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Above, fourth-graders in art teacher Brenda Lilly's art class at Jackson Street School in Northampton pose in the entrance to the school with their three-dimensional models of  rooms. Behind them are 3D masks made by the fifth-grade class.<br/>Below, Jonny Shotland, left, and Adam Ives, both fourth-graders at Jackson Street School, work on their three-dimensional pieces.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Above, fourth-graders in art teacher Brenda Lilly's art class at Jackson Street School in Northampton pose in the entrance to the school with their three-dimensional models of rooms. Behind them are 3D masks made by the fifth-grade class.
    Below, Jonny Shotland, left, and Adam Ives, both fourth-graders at Jackson Street School, work on their three-dimensional pieces.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jonny Shotland, left, and Adam Ives, both fourth graders in art teacher Brenda Lilly's art class at Jackson Street School, work on their three-dimensional room pieces.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Jonny Shotland, left, and Adam Ives, both fourth graders in art teacher Brenda Lilly's art class at Jackson Street School, work on their three-dimensional room pieces.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Students in Jen Reed's kindergarten class at Jackson Street School pose with some of their self-portraits on display in the hallway of the school. From left are Camilla Brewer, Caitlin Carbery, Cassidy Richardson, Amelie Acevedo Velez, Ean Redmond, Romy Malquist and Chloe Comerford Hennessey.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Herschel Levine, an art teacher at JFK Middle school, works with student, Destiny Ren,13, of Northampton in a class Monday morning.
  • Alex Mikaelian,13 of Northampton, works on a surreal shoe drawing in his art class at  JFK Middle school Monday morning. <br/>
  • Nick Sandoval,13, of Northampton with his surreal shoe drawing  he did in art class at JFK Middle school  Monday morning. <br/>
  • Jackson Street School fifth graders used clay and plaster gauze in the making of these masks on display in the entrance hallway of the school. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Above, fourth-graders in art teacher Brenda Lilly's art class at Jackson Street School in Northampton pose in the entrance to the school with their three-dimensional models of  rooms. Behind them are 3D masks made by the fifth-grade class.<br/>Below, Jonny Shotland, left, and Adam Ives, both fourth-graders at Jackson Street School, work on their three-dimensional pieces.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Jonny Shotland, left, and Adam Ives, both fourth graders in art teacher Brenda Lilly's art class at Jackson Street School, work on their three-dimensional room pieces.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

At Jackson Street, like most schools, the walls are an art gallery.

This weekend, thanks to the collaboration of four city schools art teachers, that “gallery” will be open to the entire community. Starting Friday and running through March 23, the K-8 Exhibition will present artwork by city students for the first time under one roof at the Northampton Center for the Arts. The East Gallery will display more than 60 pieces of student artwork. The exhibit opens Friday with a reception during Arts Night Out from 4 to 7:30 p.m., and represents the last gallery event the Northampton Center for the

Arts is hosting before it closes in June.

Art teachers from the elementary and middle schools say they hope the exhibit will be the first of many annual exhibits to come. The art teachers hold department meetings to discuss curriculum and other program issues, but find they rarely share projects, said Leslie Macutkiewicz, who teaches art at the Leeds and R.K. Finn Ryan Road schools.

“As an art teacher you feel kind of isolated because you’re in your own school, so it’s an opportunity to see each others work,” Macutkiewicz said. “We got together and thought it would be a great way to show the artwork of the whole district.”

With the impending closing of the Center for the Arts, the teachers saw a great opportunity to hold the opening reception during the center’s final Art’s Night Out.

“There’s going to be a variety of artwork. I think it will be a good way, especially for the kids in the elementary schools, to meet each other and see each others’ works and how differently everybody makes art,” Macutkiewicz said. “It’s a great family night out too,”

Students are also thrilled at the prospect.

Seventh-grader Nick Sandoval of Northampton says he can’t wait to see his sketch “Shoe in a Surreal Environment” hanging in a gallery.

“It’s downtown. I’m just excited that a lot of people are gonna see it,” he said. “I like just creating something that will inspire someone and making stuff that other people will like.”

How it came about

The exhibit is the brainchild of JFK Middle School art teachers Michelle Mallory and Herschel Levine, Jackson Street and Bridge Street schools’ art teacher Brenda Lilly; and Macutkiewicz. They say the chance to work together only strengthens their art program.

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between the four elementary schools and the one middle school,” Mallory said in an interview in her classroom at JFK middle school.

They are also, they say, interested in exploring the relationship between the arts and other academic subjects.

“There’s so much math involved in art, so much science, mixing paint with water or glue,” Macutkiewicz said. “Its not just some obscure thing, people can learn to do art.”

The teachers said creating art is as integral to the school curriculum as any other subject — and offers an invaluable opportunity to students.

“It’s an avenue for them to really express themselves. Where they don’t really feel comfortable in math or science, in art they can create something they’re proud of,” Lilly said in an interview last month in her Jackson Street classroom while fourth graders worked on 3D paper dream rooms.

These creations covered the gamut. One student used a birthday party theme. Others incorporated their passions, such as a ballet bar or a balance beams.

“Even though it’s the same lesson, each kid can create it in their own style,” said Lilly.

She believes art projects build problem-solving skills.

“They really need a place to use both sides of their brain, work on projects, and not just think inside the box,” Lilly said.

In an interview during an art class with Mallory, eighth grade students Emily Woodland and Drue Steele of Northampton said the art program is one of their favorite subjects at JFK.

“I think the projects are challenging in a good way. It’s not step by step, you can get creative with it,” Woodland said.

Steele said she likes the way Mallory gives students choices and space to reflect.

“It gives you time to just think about things,” said Steele.

Both students spoke enthusiastically about a recent project involving a mural that incudes their interpretations of all their teachers. The images created were not just teachers at a chalkboard.

“It’s their personalities,” said Woodland. “Teachers in their true forms, riding dragons and as super heroes and all this other cool stuff.”

Students depicted one teacher who teaches languages at JFK but also teaches karate on the side, as a ninja. A teacher who loves theater became a fairy. And Mallory is painted at the center of the mural wielding a paintbrush as if it is a magic wand.

Both Steele and Woodland will have work in the exhibition.

The teachers say the most difficult part of putting the event together was choosing the art to be displayed due to limited space.

“We looked for students who had put a lot of time and energy and their creativity into their work. It’s very hard, but some definitely stick out because of their dedication,” Mallory said. The teachers maintain the chance for students to have their work chosen and displayed for the public to view is invaluable on many levels.

“It gives them a good feeling to know other people are out there looking at their artwork,” said Macutkiewicz. “It puts it in a whole new perspective.”

Fourth-grader Nate Jones of Northampton, will be showing his drawing done in Lilly’s class at Jackson Street. Tracing overlapping outlines of his arm, he decorated the inside with designs resembling henna tattoos and used red watercolor for the background.

“Being able to make whatever you want,” Jones said, is what he likes best about art. “I like art and writing. Writing is a lot like art.”

Macutkiewicz believes art is an essential piece of every student’s education.

“It’s not something that should be seen as outside the curriculum but part of a whole, part of the whole child, they make so many connections that way,” Macutkiewicz said.

“Art is so important to kids all over, I can’t imagine schools without it.”

Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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