It’s finally March, the month many New Englanders look forward to all winter long. It’s a month often associated with new beginnings – we turn the clocks ahead, days start to get a little warmer and signs of spring start popping up all over the place.
Another big part of March is the abundance of student art that starts popping up, too, particularly at Steeplegate Mall.
March is Youth Art Month, and every year around this time a big exhibit of Concord School District student artwork goes up inside the mall. It’s one of the few times throughout the year that the mall has some legitimate buzz surrounding it, as there are hundreds of works inside made by kids from across the school district in all grades. The result is a wildly diverse collection of unique works of art.
“It’s about 10 or 12 of us art teachers – we don’t get a lot of opportunity to get together as a district,” said Somayeh Kashi, an art teacher at Rundlett Middle School. “This is my third year at Concord School District, and unanimously we all came out and it was a lot more collaborative – everyone was helping each other out. Just a really great vibe.”
The project not only gives students a chance to show off their work in a public, gallery-type setting, it also allows the teachers to collaborate and share ideas across the district rather than just their own schools. It also offers the teachers a chance to take a step back and reflect on the work they’ve done teaching students their skills.
“Looking at the work, it’s pretty impressive when you see the amount of work coming from all grades,” Kashi said. “It seems to be elevating each year.”
The exhibit features a wide array of pieces covering a slew of mediums and genres. Most of the works are paintings, but you’ll also see small sculptures, photography, collages, works of clay and more. And since there are works from students of all grade levels, there’s just as wide a variety of skill level and interest on display – one of the fun things to do is look at the progression of the artwork through the grades and see how the lessons and techniques progress and advance as you move up the grades.
Since the word “art” can represent so many things apart from paintings and sculptures, the opening reception for the exhibit last Thursday featured students from the Concord High School band playing music in the mall corridor just outside the entrance to the exhibit (across from where Victoria’s Secret used to be). The music really added to the artistic ambiance of the evening, and the reception was packed – we even ran into old buddy Tim Goodwin, who was covering the event for an upcoming Monitor feature.
Given that they know all year that this show comes around in March, art teachers had plenty of time to prepare their students for the exhibit. Teachers have been collecting artwork for this exhibit since September, Kashi said, so there’s been plenty of time to get things in order. That said, it doesn’t mean it’s all that easy to pull something like this together.
“We try to get the other departments involved, such as music – we have live music at the event – and the CRTC (Concord Regional Technical Center) does cookies.”
With basically a full school year of preparation in the rearview mirror, the whole exhibit gets set up in a day – and a very long day, at that, Kashi said. This exhibit took about 5 hours to set up, and it came out looking very impressive.
One of the fun portions of the exhibit is a section with all portraits, done from kindergarten through 12th grade. This allows you to see the artistic and creative progression through each grade.
“It’s pretty amazing when you see it all put together,” Kashi said.
While the mall exhibit is the headliner of Student Art Month, there are other things going on, too.
The State House will feature a student art exhibit through April 5. There is no opening reception for that exhibit, which opened March 11. The exhibit is open during normal State House hours.
The state library will also have a student exhibit on display through the end of March.
And, while it is Youth Arts Month, it is also Music In Schools Month, made official by a proclamation by Gov. Chris Sununu. Sununu has also proposed an increase to the N.H. State Council on the Arts grants budget for fiscal year 2020, so things are looking good for the arts scene around here for the foreseeable future.
Also associated with Youth Arts Month is the 2019 N.H. Poetry Out Loud Championship at the State House this Friday at 5 p.m., as well as a high school short film festival screening at the state library throughout the month of March, with a reception March 31 from 1 to 3 p.m.
For more information on related events across the state, go to nhartslearning.org/youth-arts-month.