More than 200 pieces in exhibit dedicated to Madeline Seely, middle school girl who died late last year
By David Ryan Palmer
Visitors to Arts Benicia’s gallery this week will see one of the largest art shows ever featured at the venue. And all of it was produced by local children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The Next Generation Art Show gets under way Thursday at the Tyler Street gallery, where more than 200 paintings, sculptures, photographs, collages and charcoal and pencil drawings are featured — all of it the product of kids and pre-teens’ imaginations.
The show features work from all four elementary schools, the middle school, St. Dominic’s private Catholic school, as well as independent art groups Art for Kids, Art Exploratorium and The Linden Tree.
The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Madeline Seely, a Benicia Middle School student who passed away unexpectedly late last year.
Arts Benicia Director Larnie Fox said featuring kids’ artwork — which covers the full spectrum of skill levels from the raw to the nearly professional — is one of the most important things his organization has been involved in.
“It’s really fresh,” Fox said.
“It’s important for a number of reasons. It encourages children’s art, it encourages critical and creative thinking.”
Fox’s view is that students are more and more being forced to focus on testing, on “right” or “wrong” answers. With the financial difficulties and testing requirements in schools these days, many kids aren’t able to make any real choices about their day, he said.
Art, he said, gives them an avenue to explore meaningful decisions and see the outcome of those decisions.
“On a typical school day, a child doesn’t get to make any choices. When they make art, they get to decide what to make, how to make it, and they get to see the consequences of those decisions right there in front of them,” he said.
Of the 208 pieces of art in the show, Fox acknowledges only a handful will be the first pieces in a longer art career.
That’s not the point, he said.
“We know many of these kids won’t grow up to be professional artists,” he said — but the creativity they use will help them later in life.
The exhibit benefited from the work of dedicated volunteers who, even late Wednesday, were busy putting up artwork and adjusting the display area. “We have an amazing group of volunteers,” Fox said.
Good thing, too: After recent budget cuts, Arts Benicia has increasingly had to rely on volunteers to get exhibits and shows off the ground.
“We have had a lot of support to keep the work going,” Fox said.
If You Go
The Next Generation Art Show begins Thursday at Arts Benicia’s Gallery, 991 Tyler St., Suite 114. A reception for the show will be held Sunday from 3-5 p.m.