Every school represented
By Keri Luiz
The doors to Arts Benicia’s newest exhibit, Next Generation, featuring artwork by Benicia students, had only been open for a few minutes Thursday when the first visitors wandered in.
Among them were the parents of a student at Liberty High School. They had come to see their child’s work, a drawing of a leaf.
“We put that on the main wall. I don’t think they knew that when the came in, so they were very pleased and surprised to see their child’s work featured very prominently,” Arts Benicia Director Larnie Fox said.
“It was such a good piece.”
The annual event, now in its third consecutive year, features the work of students from all of Benicia’s schools.
It’s a popular event — but it had been discontinued some years before because of the work involved.
“I was strongly in favor of reviving it,” Fox said.
He knew the way forward was to get the schools to become more involved.
“We got the support from (Superintendent of Benicia Schools) Janice Adams —thank God!” he said. “She kind of nudged schools that didn’t feel like it was a top priority.”
The first couple years saw some hiccups that had to be worked through, Fox said, but “this year was totally smooth.”
The exhibit includes about 250 pieces representing the creativity of Benicia’s students, kindergarten through 12th grade.
This year, Fox said, there are “a lot of dogs. We have an undersea theme, and a dog theme; it is interesting to see how they go.”
The quality is very high, he said.
“It is very strong work. Kids see the world in fresh eyes,” he said. “There’s been a lot of adult artists that spend their whole careers trying to figure out how to get that same kind of freshness and honesty that children have.
“I think the secret to being an artist is not forgetting how to play when you grow up.”
Arts Benicia will have three events tied to the Next Generation exhibit. The first is an opening reception Sunday for the exhibit itself, usually a very busy event with the children and their families attending, Fox said.
On March 14, arts educators Susan Bunch and Susan Watts, who taught for many years in Benicia Unified School District, will give a presentation.
“These are two women that have really helped keep the arts in the public schools in Benicia,” Fox said. “They have worked really hard through the years to introduce new art programs into the schools as the schools do cutbacks in funding.”
Finally, Family Art Day, March 17, gives children and their parents the opportunity to work on an art project together.
“(The Children’s Art Committee) puts tables inside the gallery. Kids and parents work together to do projects, generally loosely based on the exhibition,” Fox said.
He said putting together the Next Generation show is an “enormously complex task,” involving great work by the Children’s Art Committee, led this year by Susan Sullivan, former principal of Mary Farmar Elementary School.
“They contact every classroom in the district, and private schools, and after-school programs,” he said. “To select the best of the artwork from all of these sources is a herculean task. The teachers do the jurying in the schools, but we have the teachers, liaisons in every school, then we have the committee people and staff.
“The committee has done an enormous amount of work to pull this off. They’ve done it really gracefully and without ruffling any feathers. It’s amazing how they were able to pull it off.
“It’s a real joy,” he said.
If You Go
An opening reception for “Next Generation” is Sunday from 3-5 p.m. at Arts Benicia, 991 Tyler St., Suite 114. On March 14 from 7-8:30 p.m., arts educators Susan Bunch and Susan Watts will give a presentation with the focus, “How has art education changed through the years and how can parents encourage their children’s creativity?” On March 17, Arts Benicia will host Family Art Day from 1-3 p.m. For more information, call 707-747-0131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.