CLARKS SUMMIT — Abington Heights Art students will be featured at The Gathering Place in Clarks Summit for the third annual Our Town Student Art Show. During the month of February, drawing, painting, photography and mixed media pieces will be on display.
Partnering with the Abington Business and Professional Association and the Abington Heights Civic League, The Gathering Place celebrates the creative talent of high school students by awarding scholarships and prizes to be used to further art education for junior and seniors who participate.
On Sunday, Feb. 9, the Gathering Place will hold an opening reception for the Our Town Student Art Show. The event is free to the public and refreshments will be served. The Our Town exhibit will run through March 9.
Shirley Wagner Eagan and Dorothy O’Connor started the art show three years ago.
“The show is called ‘Our Town’ because Shirley Eagan designed and painted watercolor note cards featuring businesses from our community. They were sold to start the fund for student scholarships,” said Anne Armezzani of the Gathering Place.
Donations from the community have also helped to fund art scholarships. Bob and Regina Bennett are financial chairmen of the show and help to bring in donations from the Clarks Summit area in support of the students.
The students who are considered for scholarships wrote an essay that they submitted with their work. Each essay explained how that student planned to use award money to further his or her education in the arts.
Abby Fenton is in her 13th year teaching art at Abington Heights.
“We are grateful for this opportunity for our students at the high school. It’s a chance for students to showcase their work,” Fenton said. “When we are children, at some point in time our creativity is squashed by someone for some reason. Kids naturally have no inhibitions. Kids who express themselves creatively are just creating to create and naturally don’t worry about judgment from others. Somewhere along the way, that judgment from others affects and stifles them. As we get older, we are so worried about what everybody else thinks. It’s important to remain vulnerable in creative art and I want to encourage that in my students.”
Fenton has a background in architecture and design.
“There is skill that needs to be learned and developed in art. Math is involved in design. I use to do mosaics. To me, there was a right piece and a right answer as I worked on a piece. With things like perspective drawing there is a right answer, there are rules. And there is still so much creativity in selection, such as choice of color. There is design to art. There is something to be said for craftsmanship and excellence.”
Fenton encourages a balance between creative liberty and learned skill.
“As art teachers in the high school we teach technical skill, but we also encourage students to express themselves and have a unique creative voice.”
Spencer Janus of Newton Township said, “the amount of things we get to get to do with art during our time at school is great. We are exposed to a lot.”
Fellow students agree.
Lauren Koczwara of South Abington Township said, “We get to be hands on and experience a lot in the art classes here. We can take our time and try new things.”
Abington Heights High School offers numerous art classes. Art 1, Art 2, Advanced Studio Art, Intro to 3D Design, Photography 1, Photography 2, Digital Media & Design, Ceramics, Jewelry and Metalsmithing, Mixed Media and Creative Expression.
Abington Heights art teachers, Eileen Healey, Abby Whitbeck Fenton, Tim Butler and Elizabeth Foster work with students through the year and encourage them to submit pieces to showcase at exhibits like The Gathering Place’s Our Town Student Art Show.
“Some of these kids have blown me away as I’ve seen the pieces come in for this exhibit,” Fenton said. “They impress me with their attention to detail, the meticulous work they do, the time they put into their work and the patience they have. There are a number of students that just impress me with their patience. So much of art is patience. Be patient with yourself and don’t compare yourself to anyone but yourself so you can see your own growth.
“Another thing I am seeing is the social awareness that our students bring into their work. They are paying attention and using art to have a voice. I see that it’s important to these kids to reach people on topics and social issues that are important to them through their artwork.”
There will be an opening reception and awards ceremony for the Our Town Student Art Show Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at The Gathering Place 304 S. State Street in Clarks Summit.
Julie Jeffery Manwarren is a freelance writer and photographer who enjoys reading, writing and historical research. She has called the Abingtons home for more than two decades and resides here with her husband Phil and their two children. Reach her at email@example.com.