Concord Youth Art Show is worth a visit

  • Broken Ground art teacher Karen McCormack talks to Concord High senior Erik Forsten at the opening of the Concord School District’s exhibit at Steeplegate Mall. Tim Goodwin / Monitor staff

  • Cheryl Bourassa takes a picture of one of her students’ works at the Concord Youth Art Month exhibit at Steeplegate Mall. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff

  • A group takes a close look at the portrait wall, the most recent addition to the Concord School District’s Youth Art Month exhibit now on display at the Steeplegate Mall. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff

  • Concord High senior Erik Forsten takes in the work at the opening for the Concord School District's Youth Art Month exhibit. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • The Concord School District's Youth Art Month exhibit is on display at Steeplegate Mall through April 5. The show includes more than 1,000 pieces created by students at all grade levels. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • The Concord School District's Youth Art Month exhibit is on display at Steeplegate Mall through April 5. The show includes more than 1,000 pieces created by students at all grade levels. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • The Concord School District's Youth Art Month exhibit is on display at Steeplegate Mall through April 5. The show includes more than 1,000 pieces created by students at all grade levels. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • The Concord School District's Youth Art Month exhibit is on display at Steeplegate Mall through April 5. The show includes more than 1,000 pieces created by students at all grade levels. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

  • The Concord School District's Youth Art Month exhibit is on display at Steeplegate Mall through April 5. The show includes more than 1,000 pieces created by students at all grade levels. TIM GOODWIN / Monitor staff—

Monitor staff
Published: 3/13/2019 6:02:12 PM

As Karen McCormack watched her students – both past and present – walk around the opening of the Concord School District’s Youth Art Month exhibit at Steeplegate Mall last Thursday, it brought back fond memories.

Even though she graduated from Concord High in 1992, McCormack still remembers being in their shoes, searching the walls of the exhibit’s then home, the Concord Public Library, for her work. It was a big deal back then to be chosen for the annual showcase, and now, as the art teacher at Broken Ground School, McCormack still feels that excitement as she kept an eye on those students wandering around the former N.Y. and Co. storefront flanked by siblings and parents to show off all their hard work.

She knows first hand how much it means to the students and families. And while the goal is to showcase the best work, McCormack also tries to reward students who have put in the extra work and made an effort to improve, even if it doesn’t always come across in the finished product.

“I try to get as many kids in as I can,” McCormack said. “Because I remember being in middle school and going to see my piece and being really excited.”

Over the years, the exhibit has grown by leaps and bounds. When McCormack was a middle schooler, there were only about 200 works in the show, but now there are close to 1,500 pieces spanning all 12 grades in the district.

The exhibit dates back to the 1980s and was held at the library for many years, until a major renovation caused the district to find a new home. With less wall space and the collection of work growing by the year, Steeplegate made the most sense. It was really one of the few places in the city with a large enough venue to hold the ever-expanding exhibit.

“This is an amazing show – to see the talent of all the kids in the district,” said Alana Kimball, who’s daughter Caia, a fourth-grader has a piece in the show.

While the show is held each March as part of the national inititative to celebrate youth art, it is really a year-long process for the 13 district art educators to select, whittle down and then put together the show. Visitors to the show will notice a lot of the projects remain the same year after year, but that’s just because the teachers use them to teach the seven elements of art: color, form, line, shape, space, texture and value. A few years ago, they started doing portraits at all the grade levels and then using two large walls to show how the students have progressed.

“I come back and look at my former students and see what they’re doing,” said Liz MacBride, art teacher at Christa McAuliffe School. “Because it’s a collaboration of growth over time.”

For the elementary and middle school art teachers, the show provides an opportunity to follow along with how their former students have used what they taught and applied it as they progress through the art curriculum.

Concord High junior Samantha Ossoff is a clear example of that.

“She’s just super creative,” McCormack said, who had Ossoff in elementary school. “It’s great to see where she is now.”

Ossoff’s first piece appeared in the show in fifth grade and show now has multiple works, including a photograph and a graphic design project on display.

“I’m just beginning to see how things really work and now I have a much better understanding,” Ossoff said. “When I’m doing things I don’t think about (it getting in the show) but it’s an amazing accomplishment when it does.”

It takes an entire day to set up with some teachers taking the day off from instruction – the rest join after finishing up classes – and getting help from parent volunteers.

For seventh grader Leah Wright, who has multiple pieces in the show, opening night is always exciting to share what’s she created with family and friends.

“It’s always really fun because I like that people can come and see my artwork,” Wright said. “Sometimes I’ll walk past it and say ‘I did that,’ ”

Cheryl Bourassa works as an English Language Learner teacher in the district and marvels at what the students are able to accomplish.

“Sometimes you look at the art and you say that’s got to be a Concord High kid, but then it’s a fifth grader,” she said.

Bourassa has a ninth grader in the show, and while at the opening, she took pictures of work created by some of her students who couldn’t make it. As a parent and colleague, she has a real appreciation for the time and energy the district art teachers put into pulling off the show each year.

“I know how hard they work to make this happen,” she said.

While there are well over 1,000 pieces in the show, Rundlett art teacher Somayeh Kashi sees first hand the number of works that don’t make the show. It’s a struggle to decide what gets in and what unfortunately doesn’t that could fill an entire separate storefront.

“Any teacher here has a high expectation and want the best for their students,” Kashi said. “This year, I had a few students where this was their first year getting a piece in and you could see the change in them.”

Eighth grader Rhyan Arrigo admitted that she never really tried too hard in art class. It was hard for her to get excited about some of the projects assigned to her class. But this year when she was allowed to create a painting of her choosing, Arrigo said she dedicated herself.

“I spent a lot of time on the details,” Arrigo said. “There were a lot of parts I wasn’t happy with, so I went back over with white and redid them.”

And Kashi noticed the extra time and effort Arrigo put in – even outside of class – and is a reason she was selected.

Kimball said her and Caia spend about 20 minutes each year searching for her work, and then move on to locating some of her daughter’s clasmates.

“It’s really fun to find all of her friends,” Kimball said.

The Concord School District show is up through April 8 during Steeplegate Mall hours.

There are also two other youth art month exhibits at the State House through April 5 during operating hours and the State Library through the end of the month.




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