AP students design and execute art exhibit at 1978 gallery

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — For the next month, the 1978 Maplewood Arts Center will be home to “Fresh 10.0,” the 10th annual Advanced Placement Art Students Exhibit, featuring work by students from six different high schools in Essex and Union counties, including Columbia High School. The CHS artwork will hang in the gallery on Springfield Avenue until Jan. 21, next to pieces by students from Arts High School and Central High School in Newark, Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, West Essex High School and Elizabeth High School.

Curated by and for the students, the show features high-level art students who have been in AP classes. Onnie Strother, a member of the gallery’s board of trustees and its education chairperson, helped the students put the show together.

“They did all of the work,” Strother said of the students in a phone interview with the News-Record on Dec. 20. “They did the ads, the food, the social media, all of it.” Strother said the students putting the show together, in addition to being featured in it, gave them a better idea about how an art exhibit comes together.

“It’s great to work with high school students,” Strother, who used to teach art at Arts High School, said. “We’ve been doing this for 10 years and it’s a great way to show off the students and the high quality artwork that they do. We try to add a new school every year.”

This year’s newcomer to the exhibit is Central High School, while CHS is an old hand at the FRESH exhibit.

“The students are able to show what they’ve been working on all this time,” Curtis Grayson, a CHS studio art and art history teacher who has students with work in the show, said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Dec. 20. “This class is for college credit, so they have to submit a portfolio. AP classes are at the college level, so these students will have gone through most of the program. Some of them have taken lessons outside of school, too.”

Grayson said that the student-run aspect of the exhibit helped to prepare the young artists for the future, when those who choose to pursue art as a career will be doing more of the same.

“The work is all selected by the students; it’s student run,” Grayson said. “It’s gearing them up for that. It’s showing them the technique and what goes into it. They’re all seniors and a lot of them are applying to college for art.”

The exhibit not only features six different schools, but several different mediums, including charcoal, paint and chalk. Yet Grayson said that the students worked to put together an exhibit that allowed the pieces to play off one another.

“The show is very cohesive,” he said. “It’s all one. I think we’re publicizing it on the strength of the show itself. These are our highest level students, and I would encourage everyone to go and see it.”

One of Grayson’s students, CHS senior Samantha Francois, has six pieces in the show in several different mediums, markers and oil pastels being some of her favorite materials. All pieces were made in her AP studio art class.

“One focuses on color and curves,” Francois told the News-Record in a phone interview on Dec. 20. “I was working a lot in charcoal and black and white, so I wanted to do something that was different.”

Francois has applied to several art schools, including the New York Institute of Technology and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Putting the exhibit together was good practice for the future, she said.

“It was cool to do,” she said. “I’ve never curated a show before. It was cool to see people’s reactions to art, and see how to put something together.”

Tara Brown, another CHS senior, was also involved with building the art exhibit. She has also been gearing up for the Columbia High School Student Film Festival, which will be held at the arts center on Jan. 13, from 2 to 5 p.m. The festival, another student-produced event, features short films and animations made by CHS film class students.

“It’s kind of surprising how great they are,” Brown, who has been tasked with advertising the event, said in an interview with the News-Record on Dec. 20. “It’s amazing to see the amount of progress they made. They’re all at the college level, and we’re really proud of the work. I hope that people enjoy the work that went into this, because it’s looking great.”

Photos Courtesy of Onnie Strother