This is not your typical Hamptons art show . . . and they're not your typical artists. They're younger -- lots younger. And there are plenty of them -- over 5000.
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This Saturday Guild Hall in East Hampton presents its 22nd annual Student Art Festival. Thousands of kids in kindergarten through high school from 11 public and private schools contribute work to the show, which is held in two parts. The elementary school show opens this weekend. A reception Saturday, from noon to 4 PM, will also feature live performances by students on the stage in the John Drew Theater.
"I just delivered the work last Thursday," Mary Antczak, Unified Arts Coordinator for the East Hampton School district enthused, promising collage and mixed media pieces with "so much texture and color." Students from Montauk, Amagansett, Wainscott, Bridgehampton, Shelter Island, Sagaponack, and Springs will also have work on display. Home-schooled children will participate as well.
According to assistant curator Michelle Klein, who is overseeing the festival for Guild Hall, attendees can expect to see a vast array of pieces, including mini farmland paintings from Wainscott, nature prints and totem poles from Montauk, and interpretations of Monet Water Lilies from Amagansett. Different styles of sculpture, portraits, and 3-D works have also been contributed.
In East Hampton, it's been a tradition for each child to create a piece that's part of a larger presentation. Their work can both stand-alone and contribute to a single display. "It's very sophisticated and very individualized for the students," said Antczak.
Klein called the annual festival, "one of our most exciting exhibitions of the year, as it allows us the opportunity to showcase our local students and teachers. Now in its 22nd year, this exhibition also allows for our young artists of the future to be exhibited in an accredited Museum, on the same walls that we have exhibited Thomas Moran, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and others." For Klein's money, the opening reception and watching families and budding artists react to seeing the show is "truly fantastic."
Claudia Pilato, vice president in charge of marketing for Bridgehampton National Bank, agrees. BNB has been a major underwriter of the show for years. "The Guild Hall Student Arts Festival is the best of what community sponsorship by Bridgehampton National Bank is all about," she said. "It's colorful, vibrant and showcases and supports the creative energies of our kids. We're proud to have been a part of it for so many years. This is one show that's very special, because the entire community stops by."
"For 20 years, the Student Art Festival has helped nurture and encourage young talent on the East End," Ruth Appelhof, Guild Hall's executive director, added. "We salute their teachers who inspire, nurture and continue to cultivate the creative process."
The festival shows how important the arts are on the East End, East Hampton High School Principal Adam Fine observed. "It's part of our culture, and part of our school culture."
"When we come to this time of the year," he continued, "it is just a testament to the school's commitment to the arts and the talent of the students. It's absolutely amazing what goes on."
In recent years the walls in the high school have become "almost an interactive gallery of student artwork," Fine informed. He believes any comprehensive high school education has to have a strong program in the arts. At EHHS, "We're blessed to have that," the principal said.
The second part of the festival, which features works by area high school students, opens in March and runs through mid-April. Part I runs through February 23.
The Festival also includes a film component. In its eleventh year, The Student Film Competition features three age groups for contestants: Elementary Grades two to four, Middle School Grades five to eight and High School Grades nine to 12. Leaders in the local film and television community serve as judges of the kids' contributions and the three winners will be shown at an awards ceremony on April 6.
For local families, the annual festival offers a break from winter isolation, giving folks a warm reason to venture out on cold afternoons, catch up with their neighbors, and admire youthful and innocent artistic aptitude.
And how do the kids feel about participating in the show? "I know it's very important to them," said Antczak, describing the reaction of the elementary aged children as "really gleeful."