Art projects and students crowded the Stanford H. Calhoun High School gym last Friday, as the school community gathered for the highly anticipated Bellmore-Merrick Calhoun Art Exposition.
More than 150 students worked with six Calhoun art teachers for roughly three months on projects that are not only visually intriguing, but interactive in some way, and teachers and administrators as well as students stopped by the gym throughout the day to check them out.
The expo, which started as an idea about 10 years ago, according to art teacher Michael Goldberg, has since become a biannual event. “We decided that we needed something that wasn’t just a visual presentation of artwork that we have multiple times a year — where we put up a show, and maybe it seems a little distant to students who don’t take art,” Goldberg said. “This is all about interaction and hands-on [art], and really showing every student here that they are an artist in one way or another.”
Around the gym, students from the school’s various art programs, which include sculpture, animation, photography, drawing and painting, among others, displayed their projects, which were meant to elicit creative responses from the attendees. The visitors were able to experiment with Japanese brushwork, play visual games and puzzles, or pose for photos with large artistic displays. The emphasis throughout was on using science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, to create art.
“We introduce kids to stuff that they might not really have had the chance to be introduced to — like doing an animation on an iPad, or doing a collective computer drawing throughout the day using an application,” art teacher Linda Seckler explained. “It’s about solving visual puzzles — and not necessarily about making art.”
Many of the stations were entirely student-run. When non-art students stopped by, the art students took on instructors’ roles, detailing how their art was made and how their classmates could participate.
“The kids are teaching the kids now,” said art teacher Jessica Conte.
“The whole day is just about giving non-art students the experience to create art in any form,” added fellow teacher Heather Lohr. “We make sure it’s run in a way that a student coming up to a table might not know how to do it, so the art volunteers — not only do they set up everything from scratch, but they also teach how to do it.”
At one station, sophomores Natalia Lesniewski, Emma Swirsky and Carlee Hanna, all 15, created a large painting, strung with lights, that other students and teachers were able to use as a photographic backdrop.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” Lesniewski said. “There are a lot of different stations, a lot of variety, and it’s a really good thing to check out.”
“I wasn’t in an art class this year,” Swirsky added. “But then Natalia told me about [the expo], and I went to a meeting, and then I just started making things for expo and setting things up, and I got really into it. There’s guidance at all stations — it’s a really fun experience.”
At a different station, freshmen Brandon Richardson and Kyle Park, both 14 and both enrolled in Design and Drawing Production, a class that blends art and engineering, demonstrated their “art bots” — small handmade robots.
“Our teacher, Mrs. Conte, told us to research how to build an art bot,” Brandon said. “We each had our own spin on how to build it.”
“DDP isn’t a fully engineering class,” Kyle added. “It’s more artistically oriented than actual engineering. It’s a lot of sketching and planning — more than actually building things.”
The robots, made out of plastic cups, were fastened to a battery pack and a cork fan, with markers attached to the side. When the fan was turned on, the cups bounced around in a circular motion, creating designs on a large sheet of paper.
“Every time we do it, we change up our stations and bring back some of the classics that were a big success,” Goldberg said of the expo. “It’s a little bit of mayhem and a little bit of chaos, and a whole lot of fun.”
“It’s a day for everyone to know and believe they can be an artist too,” art teacher Nancy Scott said. “It’s amazing to watch my students become teachers for the day, and I’m just grateful to be part of this process. It’s a day about unity, love, art and happiness.”