For many years, Arts Benicia introduced young painters and sculptors to viewers through its “Next Generation” show. Eventually, the special exhibit was replaced by others, until 2010, when Larnie Fox became the executive director in 2010.
He revived the annual show, and a reception for this year’s edition takes place at Arts Benicia March 9.
“He resurrected it, and put life back into it,” said aid Mary Shaw, program coordinator.”It’s something teachers expect every year.”
The young people’s art will be on display throughout March 30. The show opened Thursday.
Emily Thompson, the chairperson of the Youth Art Committee and the studio’s contracted Children’s Art Coordinator, has been Arts Benicia’s “key person” in working with Benicia’s schools.
She has encouraged participation in after-school ecological art classes in the local elementary schools, and is developing an ecological art summer camp.
“Next Generation” always attracts many youngest artists, she said. This year, about 35 artists per school – both public and private, from kindergarten to 12th grades – are participating.
Some have painted or sculpted individual art pieces; others have joined in a class-wide collaboration on a specific project, she said.
Both two and three dimensional art pieces are on display, she said. The students have been inspired by sea life – among the creations is a big squid, she said. Others used the theme “Horton Hears a Who.”
Students often like to paint portraits, sometimes of individuals in popular culture, and the exhibit has some of these, she said. It also has a number of landscapes, more than in the past, Shaw said.
Some teachers have guided their art students in patterning techniques. Others encouraged their students to interpret works the way a favored artist would.
“The middle school comes out in force,” Shaw said. This year, about 30 students of Pat Hall, Benicia Middle School art teacher, collaborated on a piece that illustrates Walt Disney heroes and villains.
“Some are more directed, and some are more open,’ she said about the individual pieces of the show. “It’s great to see what they do.”
In his own comments about the show, Fox said, “The Children’s Art Committee has been working closely with the schools to pull this off. We’ve had great support from the Benicia Unified School District; they ‘get it’ when it comes to the importance of children’s art.”
He explained, “Creative thinking and decision making are the skills of the future. Making art is making a series of decisions based on creative thinking that the artist, adult or child, takes responsibility for. No one can make your art for you, but having the support of a talented art instructor surely helps.”
The annual show gives young artists a chance to see their contributions somewhere besides a classroom wall or held by magnets on a refrigerator.
“They’re on display in a nice, pristine gallery,” Shaw said. Plus, the artists can see how their works are being admired by those who visit the gallery, including at today’s reception.
Frequently, the young artists who have seen their pictures and sculptures on display in “Next Generation” shows continue their interest in art long after completing school, and have exhibited as adults in other Arts Benicia shows, Shaw said.
Today’s reception isn’t the only family-oriented event at Arts Benicia while “Next Generation” is on exhibit. Family Art Day, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 16, will let children and families create at no charge an art project under the direction of the studio’s youth education leaders.
Those in grades six to 12, as well as adults, can learn how to make recycled books at 1 p.m. March 30, led by Shelley Dupuis and Phyllis Dubois, in a class supported by a Community Sustainability Commission grant.
Cost of that class is $2 for students and $5 for families, and reservations need to be placed with Emily Thompson, email@example.com, or by calling the studio’s office, 707-747-0131.
The Next Generation opening reception takes place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 9 at Arts Benicia, 991 Tyler St. No. 114.