Thanks to the efforts of the local nonprofit North Shore Arts Angels, developing artists in the North Shore School District have a chance to show off their creations during the third annual Art Walk April 6-28.
Arts Angels was founded in 2004 by a group of parents to serve as the arts equivalent of the district’s athletic Booster Club. Arts Angels helps purchase equipment for the various plays, bands and fine art classes which take place throughout the school year, as well as paying for special events or learning workshops for the arts department.
The group also works to raise awareness and provide exposure for the fine arts in the school district as well. Gina Martone-Brown, a member of the Arts Angels, said in recent years there has been the lack of attention paid to the fine arts department by the community.
“It’s kind of hard to get a spotlight on the visual arts outside of the schools,” Martone-Brown said. “The music kids have concerts, the theater kids have plays, and the fine arts kids just have their pictures up on the walls in the schools.”
This was never more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic, and the Arts Angels team knew that they needed to do something about it. In 2021, the group gathered over Zoom to discuss potential ways to get the word out about the amazing visual art pieces being produced by North Shore students.
Tara Owens, one of the group’s co-presidents, explained that the Art Walk features local businesses hanging artwork made by students in their stores. It served the dual purpose of giving the young scholar-artists the chance to show off their work and, by distributing maps which showed which stores had student art, encouraging residents to frequent local businesses.
“We thought that this was a way to give back to the community and also get to celebrate our kids,” Owens continued. “We could both celebrate the students and get people to come into businesses during that tough time.”
In the Art Walk’s first year, the Arts Angels partnered with 13 business in Glen Head and Sea Cliff to display the student artwork. This year it has grown to 30, and according to Owens and Martone-Brown the community response has been incredibly supportive.
Students and teachers in the district have also had a very positive experience with the Art Walk. Lynn Johnson and Sara Cano, two visual arts teachers at North Shore High School, both emphasized how much they and their students have enjoyed getting to showcase their work.
“It was really incredible for the Arts Angels to bring this to us, to give the visual artists a way to share their gifts and talents with the community in such a public way,” Cano said.” It’s really been such a wonderful experience for us because the Arts Angels take care of all of the contact with the businesses, and the kids just have to make amazing art.”
“What’s really nice is that because they’re up in the communities, community members will recognize a student’s name,” Johnson added. “Sometimes a kid goes into a store and people will say ‘Hey I saw your photograph or painting,’ and I think that’s a really proud moment for the students.”
Heather Lennon, a senior at the high school, said she had an experience just like that last year, when she first displayed some of her art for the Art Walk. She explained that her bus driver had mentioned to her that he had seen her work and had no idea she was such a talented artist.
This is her second year participating in the Art Walk, and Lennon says she’s looking forward to choosing her pieces. She added that it’s a great opportunity for young artists like her to get a sense of what it’s like to display their art, and to take it outside of the classroom and into the real world.
“It’s really lovely that different parts of the community can connect through art,” Lennon said. “Especially because they may not have had the opportunity without something like the Art Walk.”