By Annette Hinkle
The numbers alone are impressive — 3,000 students, 14 schools, grades K through 12 … and thousands of colors.
This is a sampling of what’s in store for visitors to the Guild Hall art galleries this Saturday with the opening of the 26th Annual Student Art Festival. Because of the sheer volume of work included, the festival is always a riot of color and creativity offered in the dreary depths of winter.
While Guild Hall has historically divided the festival into two separate exhibitions running consecutively — the first made up of work by students in grades K-8 followed by a second show later for high school students — that has all changed this year. Instead, this festival will be a combined K-12 exhibition which, as Jennifer Brondo, general manager of the John Drew Theater who oversees theater education, explains will free up the museum schedule allowing for the addition of a month-long show of work by local artists.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Brondo of the merged exhibitions. “Normally, the younger kids don’t go to see the high school show and vice versa. Now the students can see both exhibitions.”
Brondo organizes the performing arts and film portion of the festival alongside Casey Dalene, curatorial assistant and museum education associate at Guild Hall who handles the visual art aspects. Dalene explained that with one large student show this year instead of two, there were some necessary changes made in the submission parameters with t teachers asked to reduce the amount — or size — of student artwork in order to accommodate all participants.
“In the younger classes, we encouraged group projects or smaller works so that every student’s hand is represented,” said Dalene, who added that in taking stock of the types of art being submitted, finds the younger grades are inspired by famous artists from the East End.
“We get a lot of work inspired by deKooning, or Jasper Johns and other artists who have been incorporated into the curriculum,” said Dalene. “The teachers love this program and almost all are participating from Bridgehampton to Montauk. What I’ve seen so far, it’s a wide variety of work.”
On opening day this Saturday, Brondo notes that in addition to the art in the galleries, there will be a full line-up of young performers taking the stage at the John Drew Theater, including the Bridgehampton High School marimba band, the East Hampton Middle School dance team, the two East Hampton High School dance teams (Bonac Dance Force and Dance Power), and the Amagansett School chorus. In addition, several students from the East Hampton Home School Group, who also have artwork in the show, will share their talents on stage as well.
The festival will also include Guild Hall’s 15th Annual Student Film Competition which culminates in an awards ceremony and screening on March 29. Headed by Brondo, film submissions for the completion are due by February 22, and students of all ages are encouraged to enter, whether their films were made in the classroom or independently.
“These days, you can make a movie on your phone,” said Brondo. “Anyone should submit. We then send the films to local judges, including teens from the library and some people from the Hamptons International Film Festival. They watch all the movies, which is around 40 to 50 films.”
The competition is divided into three different categories — grades 1 to 5, grades 6 to 8 and high school. Films by high school students can be up to 20 minutes in length, while younger students are limited to 10 minutes.
While the festival and the film competition are both long-standing traditions at Guild Hall, in the past year students have found a larger voice under direction of Guild Hall’s new executive director, Sag Harbor’s Andrea Grover, who came on board a little more than a year ago. Key to that involvement has been the creation of Guild Hall’s Teen Arts Council (GHTAC), a board comprised of 10 students from Pierson, Bridgehampton, Ross, and East Hampton High Schools who meet weekly in order to develop programming for their peers on the East End.
“They have the ability to create their own events,” explained Brondo. “They’re talking about holding a teen night or a speed talking event where they get to know kids of different interests. They have all sort of ideas that none of us would think of. They’re bringing a younger voice to Guild Hall and help us get a younger perspective.”
To that end, members of the GHTAC will act as jurors in this year’s student exhibition, recognizing outstanding works of art at all grade levels.
“The Teen Arts Council will be giving out awards to high school students during the exhibition opening,” said Dalene. “We thought it would be a great way to highlight the students work, judged by a jury of their peers with assistance by the curatorial staff.”
High school categories will include best portrait (photography and painting or drawing), best landscape, best photograph, best mixed media, best abstract, best sculpture and best print.
Another project involving teens came from Kathleen Mulcahy, manager of the Guild Hall gift shop. She requested that students in Sheila Batiste’s art class at East Hampton High School come up with a design incorporating Guild Hall’s logo that could be printed on a drawstring backpack. The class submitted 15 entries. The winning design “Let Artists Lead the Way” by student Anna Rafferty has been printed on the bags, 200 of which will be given away during the festival opening. The backpack will also be sold at the gift shop going forward.
Brondo adds that teens are also well represented in the upcoming production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which opens in March in the John Drew Theater. Directed by Josh Gladstone, the cast of 22 is comprised of professional actors and seven local high school students. Another three students will be working backstage.
“We’re very excited about student involvement in a professional show. It really is a time to refocus on younger people with the Teen Arts Council, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and the Art Festival,” said Brondo.
“It’s a renaissance for that age group and something that we haven’t had in the past.”
Guild Hall’s 26th Annual Student Art Festival opens with a reception and on-stage student performances this Saturday, January 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. The festival will be view through February 11.
Other events in conjunction with the Guild Hall 26th Annual Student Arts Festival:
Portfolio Review Workshop with Michael Combs, artist and professor at School for Visual Arts. Saturday, January 27, 11 a.m. to noon for grades 10 to 12. Free, but reservations encouraged.
“Word Up! A Middle School Celebration of Poetry,” Wednesday, January 31, 7 p.m.
Student Art Workshop for grades K-5 with Alexandra McCourt, Saturday February 3 from 11 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m.
Guild Hall’s 15th Annual Student Film Competition Awards Ceremony and Screening, Thursday March 29 at 6 p.m.
For more information visit guildhall.org or call (631) 324-0806.