Despite widespread COVID-19 closures, Eastport Arts Center’s Washington Street Gallery will celebrate Youth Art Month with its 6th annual exhibition of young artists’ works. The art has been photographed by Robin Farrin, a frequent documenter of EAC events, and has been compiled as an online exhibition on the center’s site, so that all can enjoy. Featured artists are kindergarten through grade 12 students from the following schools: Beatrice Rafferty Elementary, Calais Elementary and High Schools, Machias Valley Christian School, Pembroke Elementary, Woodland Elementary and Jr./Sr. High, and the Whiting Village School. In addition, works by homeschooled students from around the region have been included.
“This year because of the COVID-19 virus about half of the schools did not participate,” said exhibition organizer Cynthia Morse, who devised the annual show in 2015 as part of her work with Washington Street Gallery’s curating committee. “The first year there were 10 schools participating; it has grown to as many as 16 schools from 10 communities.” EAC Publicity Director Lauren Koss, inspired by peers’ creative efforts to keep performing and visual arts communities going despite quarantine culture, suggested that the student art exhibition be hosted online. “We hope to produce more content to post online in the weeks to come,” said Koss, “sharing performing arts and educational opportunities with our community, even though we can’t do so together as in every other mud season in memory.”
The show features paintings, drawings, collage, and sculpture of a gloriously wide range of subjects. Landscapes of all seasons have been evoked in cut paper, paint, repurposed egg cartons, and even colored sand. Animal-themed works are plentiful, including deer, birds, brilliant fish, and cunning creatures fashioned from leaves. Godzilla, a watercolor dragon, and other fantasy creatures frolic alongside sincere-looking dogs, a snacking polar bear, and an intricately collaged ‘Lonely Bird.’ A bold selection of abstract works have also been included, including a group of Chihuly-inspired faux glass pieces, as well as a range of 2-D color studies. Figural works range from an interpretation of Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ to a haunting digitally produced work of moonlit twins, and an homage to Noodle, a childlike character devised by the band Gorillaz for their music videos.
A surrealistic effort was submitted by Linda Jessiman, a 6th grader taught by Lisa Fochesato at Whiting Village School. “I started with a melting dog surrounded by other dogs,” notes Jessiman in her artist’s statement. “As I started the final drawing I thought that the background looked too plain, so I added a melting clock, a non-melting bird and a non-melting fish.”
11-year-old homeschooled student Shaïloh Lev produced a group of 9 original Tarot cards with evocative illustrations. “Since Shaïloh began to read, he has been a bookworm,” commented Shaïloh’s mother and teacher Michelle. “He has an interest in fairy tales, mythology, fantasy and role-playing tabletop games.”
Robin Farrin, a photographer who has captured much of EAC’s recent history, took images of the submitted works to share online. Among the group were works by her own students; Farrin began recently to teach art at the Perry school. “It is evident that [students’] art teachers encouraged their creativity, from the remarkable selections they contributed. As a brand-new art teacher myself, I know how difficult it is to select only one piece from each grade. All the students have so much to offer us.” Farrin reflected on the students’ efforts, and the role of all adults to encourage, especially important at this time of schooling-from-home. “When we, and especially children, are encouraged to ‘Go for it’—to be free to create—the results are often worthy to be displayed for others to enjoy, even if it’s just put on a refrigerator. Please praise and encourage their creativity to blossom. Praise truly matters.”
Eastport Arts Center hopes that the online exhibition will be a source of hope, comfort and inspiration for students and families in Washington County and beyond. “Unfortunately, this year’s reception needed to be canceled,” said Morse. “Although the EAC hopes to reschedule it late in April or May, no one really knows if that will be possible. We hope that next year things will be back to normal, and for this year, students, parents and friends will take a look at it on the EAC website.”