“Identity Blueprint,” a group show featuring mixed media works by both master contemporary artists and the young women that they mentored this past summer, has moved from Newark’s Gallery Aferro to Pierro Gallery of South Orange. It is on view at Pierro through December 3. The next stop is the Camera Club of New York City from December 16 through January 7, 2012.
The show shares its name with this past summer’s pilot arts education program inaugurated at Aferro by the not for profit gallery’s founding artists and co-directors, Evonne M. Davis and Emma Wilcox. Davis, a photographer and sculptor, and Wilcox, a photographer, were among the six master artist instructors who also included Aileen Bassis, Florine Demosthene, Lisa Elmaleh and Ann LePore.
The students from grades 10-12 came from Malcolm X, Shabazz, Arts, East Side, Technology, University, West Side and Barringer High Schools in Newark on the recommendations of their art teachers, principals or a caring adult: “We reached out to a range of schools; we sought to create a completely new peer group of students,” Wilcox said. The young women’s goals differed: Some plan to be professional artists. “Being a part of Gallery Aferro has shown me that creating work that expresses me is something that I want to do for the rest of my life,” said Claudia Phillips, a graduate of University High School who is now a freshman majoring in fine art at Caldwell College.
Others were interested in the experience of working intensely with leading artists: “One of the students plans to study psychology,” Wilcox said. “What was important was their willingness to make an intense commitment.”
“During the program, we sought a balance between the pleasure of experimentation and the discipline of creating a final product, involving the young women in stem skills, including science,” Wilcox said. “So many twenty first century skills are connected to tinkering--scientists today use a 20th century expression-- ‘get girls under the hood.’”
The students ‘got under the hood’ every Saturday for three months during workshops in digital animation, sculptural carpentry and cyanotype photography—a process that produces the kind of blueprints architects used before computer generated renderings.
Most of the workshops were held at the eight year old, 20,000 foot, four floor Gallery Aferro, which is housed in a converted furniture store in downtown Newark. “The students also had the benefit of seeing the gallery’s exhibits and meeting our resident artists; of seeing what working artists look like,” Wilcox said. For the digital animation work, the group traveled to the computer lab at a youth led design studio in the Valley Arts District (VAD) of West Orange and Orange.
As to the show’s travel to South Orange, Davis, Wilcox and Sandy Martiny, the director of the 18 year old Pierro Gallery, have a common interest in art educations, community outreach and collaborations with other arts organizations—this past April, Gallery Aferro presented ”, a show by three of their resident artists at the VAD’s IronWorks Gallery.
Martiny has an extensive background in art education as a former teaching artist in Newark’s public schools and director of museum education at the Jersey City Museum and the National Academy in New York City. “Gallery Aferro and their education programs have been on my radar for some time,” Martiny said. “I knew the quality of work they do.The students worked in long blocks of time in the outside world of adult professionals. Nothing was watered down: They needed to learn how to use power tools and chemicals; they all rose to the occasion.”
Martiny commented on the exhibit: “They’re beautiful images. Many are about self identity exploration which is appropriate for that age,” Martiny said. “We had 45 people here for the opening night panel discussion on arts education outside of the schools and their response to the show was very positive.”
Many of the student pieces speak to beginnings and finding love, both within and outside the family. Some of the works by the mentor artists look to midlife and the deceptive role of memory, as with Aileen Bassis’ multimedia riffs on a quotation from Jean Paul Sartre, “I construct my memories with my present.”
The mentor’s works represent their long march to the highest level of expression,” Wilcox said. “Every one of us is a former teenager. Any adult who ever took time with you, gives you the blueprint for what you can do as a mentor for someone else.”
The Pierro Gallery of South Orange is located in the Baird Center, 5 Mead St., South Orange. Hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 2-7 p.m.; Friday, 2-5 p.m. and Saturdays 1-4 p.m. or by appointment: Call (973) 378-7754 Ext. 3.
See Gallery Aferro to learn about its wide range of programs and current exhibits or call (973) 353-9533. There is no admission for either gallery. The students artists are Khalida Alexander, Yasmine E. Bacon, Zhanna Renee Caldwell, Cheryse D. Damon, Claudia Philips, Nicole Revnoso, Hilda Saladin, Katerin Salguero and Zafirah Wilson. Some may be seen in one of their digital animations on line. Click here.