Avon Grove School Board celebrates student art01/31/2024 01:19PM ● By Colleen Cochran
The artistic achievements of several Avon Grove High School students were lauded during the Avon Grove School Board meeting, held Jan. 25. Four talented seniors displayed and discussed their works, and they described how the new high school, and the art department’s teachers, varied curriculum, and abundance of artist tools have enhanced and supported their creative endeavors.
Avon Grove High School Principal Christie Snead, Ed.D., introduced the event. Student presenters included Ryan Boggetta, Helike Milestone, Jacob Peterson, and Ruby Queen. Art department teachers Jennifer Martorello, Kara Mercer, and Regina Lang were present to describe their roles in supporting students’ artistic growth.
The exhibition of student artwork was a testament to the variety of classes offered by the high school’s art department. Student displays included paintings, drawings, ceramics, graphic design, digital animation, and jewelry. The Avon Grove High School Art Department also offers printmaking, photography, and digital art classes.
“There is really something for everyone,” said Jennifer Martorello, art instructor. “Our classes are open to every student in the school because everyone needs a creative outlet.”
Senior student Ruby Queen showed and discussed a drawing she made, but her intention after graduation is to pursue a BFA in jewelry making. She said that drawing classes have provided her with necessary foundational skills for creating jewelry. This semester, she will utilize those core skills in the art department’s jewelry and metalsmithing class.
Board member Bill Wood asked if skills learned in art classes borrow from or assist with learning other school curriculum.
Kara Mercer, art teacher, gave a specific example of how the art history class gives students perspective into other history and government classes. She said, “In art history class, we don’t just learn about art, we learn about the religions, cultures, politics, and events that inspire that art.”
Student Ryan Boggetta melded her love for sports with her art, and she said the two disciplines complement one another. She showed off her favorite creation, a digitally produced piece that depicts herself lying on the grass in sports attire surrounded by a shot put, discus, and javelin. Her intent with this piece, she said, was to show how sports, like art, can be very calming.
Students also described how art classes assist their work in other classes in that they teach them how to take a vision in their heads and then bring it to life and see it through to completion. They remarked that art classes also teach them time management skills.
All of the students praised the large art department space that has been made possible by the construction of the new high school. The new school was opened to students during the 2022-2023 school year. They said the art department provides more room to create and display large-scale works of art, and they appreciated all the sinks that enable them to quickly clean up at the end of classes.
Helike Milestone, a senior who enjoys pottery, and in particular raku, talked about how, during her freshman year, she was confined to her bedroom due to the wide-scale Covid outbreak. She said the difference between taking art classes back then and now is tremendous. The big space, myriad of materials, and ability to bounce her ideas off others has tremendously improved and enhanced her works.
She said, “Art is so much more exciting.”
Rick Dumont, board member, said he is thrilled to learn that students are so pleased with the large art spaces. He acknowledged the administration and the entire team for making those spaces possible.
He said, “Those spaces just didn’t happen. It took a lot of planning.”
Jacob Peterson, a senior who concentrates on creating digital animations, expressed his pleasure over the fact that along with the new building, the art department increased its supply of artist tools and materials. He said it now has more laptops and professional lighting for digital photography, and it offers the latest software.
Added teacher Martorello, “We try to make sure all our art equipment is up to date with industry standards.”
Wood also asked whether students had been experimenting with AI art.
Art generated by artificial intelligence (AI) has been the subject of some controversy since it borrows ideas and styles from actual human artists, without compensating those artists for their contributions to the software. Furthermore, the finished products have been criticized as a step removed from “true” art creation because they are generated when a person simply inputs verbal or textual ideas. The apps, such as DALL-E, not the people, go on to actually create a piece of art.
Regina Lang, art instructor, responded to the question. She said, “Whether we like it or not, AI-generated art is here to stay. Students are going to start using AI art, so it’s up to the art instructors to teach them how to use it responsibly.”
She went on to remind listeners that in the 1920s many people proclaimed that photography was not real art, and now it’s displayed in fine art museums. She said it’s possible AI will move in the same direction.
Student Queen stated that she finds the idea of a proliferation of AI art a bit scary, but she would consider using the software programs to generate ideas concerning just how far she might push her art.
If you’d like to see just how far Avon Grove School District students are pushing their art, the Avon Grove district-wide art show will be held May 28 and 29 at the high school. It includes art from all grade levels in the district.
Twelve pieces of Avon Grove High School student art is presently on display at the Delaware County Community College Regional High Art Exhibition. That show, displayed at the college in room 2305 of the Marple Campus, runs through Feb. 16.
The Chester County High School Art Exhibition and PA 6th District Congressional Art Show run by Chester County Art Association will take place April 13-20. High Schoolers throughout Chester County, including students from Avon Grove High School, will be displaying works in the event. Students will have an opportunity to have their art considered by members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the grand prize winner will have their artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year. For the exhibition location, please contact 610-696-5600.