MAPLEWOOD, NJ — “FRESH 9.0,” an exhibit now in its ninth year that features artwork by Advanced Placement studio art students from six area high schools, opened Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 1978 Maplewood Arts Center. The schools represented include: Columbia High School in Maplewood, Arts High School in Newark, West Essex Regional High School in North Caldwell, Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, Elizabeth High School Upper Academy and Montclair High School. The exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017.
Curator Onnie Strother, the gallery’s education chairman, is a former AP art history teacher at Columbia and the former art department chairman at Arts High School. She is excited to showcase the skills and diversity of the hardworking student-artists featured in FRESH 9.0.
“AP studio art is a course in which students follow a college-level curriculum to receive college credit,” Strother said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “Students have to create a portfolio of 24 works and submit it to the board. The portfolio serves as their exam. Now, at the midpoint of the year, they are able to see what other students from other schools are doing. Each year for the last five years, I have added another school to the FRESH show. We expect to add more schools in the future.”
As for the art on display at the exhibit, Strother is even more enthusiastic.
“The students use such a broad range of expression and materials, from computer graphics to printmaking to painting, as they move towards satisfying the requirements of the AP portfolio,” he said. “In all of these schools’ programs, you will see an expression of cultural and social issues particular to each area. It is really interesting to see how the students interpret the requirements of the portfolio.”
Kayla Muldrow, whom Strother described as an emerging “star” of the art world, is a senior at Arts High School with several pieces on display at FRESH 9.0.
“I feel very happy (about the show),” Muldrow told the News-Record. “This is going to be my first show as a senior at Arts High School. I’m really excited that the show is outside of the school, where the work will be looked at and appreciated.”
Muldrow’s works are mostly self-portraits, and they exemplify the range of materials to which Strother referred. “Mobility,” which she completed in several different classes and locations, is a charcoal self-portrait on the cardboard back cover of her sketchbook.
“It was like it wanted to go everywhere with me,” she said of the piece.
“I Don’t Know, Stress?” — another of Muldrow’s works on display at FRESH 9.0 — is a commentary on the dilemma of the artist who is unsure of how to communicate with the audience and which specific art form to use, it incorporates pen, pencil and figures cut out of a book. For a third piece, “Under Construction,” Muldrow used pen, marker and acrylic paint.
Alexandria Eisen, a senior at Elizabeth High School Upper Academy, will also display her work in FRESH 9.0.
“My inspiration was the idea of an artist truly becoming his or her work,” Eisen told the News-Record about her charcoal drawing “Elephant.” As for how it feels to be included in FRESH 9.0, Eisen said, “It feels really great. For years, people would always tell me that my skill level wasn’t very good. Now, being in the show, it feels like I am making progress.”
“The Artist is Trapped,” which CHS senior Luz Aguba describes as an “altered monoprint” incorporating both thread and acrylic that is a deeply personal piece, will also be displayed in FRESH 9.0.
“There are a lot of obstacles you go through as an artist and as a person, and that’s what I was trying to communicate,” Aguba told the News Record. “It’s nice to be able to share your work, because I never have before this class. It’s a good experience for me.”
FRESH 9.0 is not only a chance for these young artists to show their work, though; it is also a chance for the students to receive valuable portfolio input and college counseling from professional artists and art teachers, who will hold a portfolio evaluation and college advisement event as part of the exhibit in January.
“This is one of the most important things we do,” Strother said. “Students will be able to come in, bring their portfolios and meet with an artist to discuss how to best build them. They will also be able to get information and guidance on which college art programs would be most suited to them and their needs.”
For more information about FRESH 9.0, visit www.1978artscenter.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, from 2 to 5 p.m., and by appointment. Gallery 1978 will be closed Sundays, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.