NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Among the many things local students lost out on due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown this past spring was the Wickford Art Association’s annual North Kingstown K-12 Student Art Exhibit, which features selected artwork from students at all levels.
Now, thanks to a previous gap in the gallery schedule and the planning of WAA Gallery Director Catherine Gagnon, North Kingstown High School Art Curriculum Coordinator and teacher Janice Strain and Davisville Middle School art teacher Annemarie Lambert, the gallery is hosting a brief North Kingstown Middle and High School Mini Exhibit through Sunday, featuring work by students from both schools, some of which was slated to appear in the spring show but most of which was created during the lockdown.
“I am happy and so proud that they were able to problem solve and express themselves during these most uncertain times in such creative ways and that the visual arts were able to offer them a positive socio and emotional outlet and build up their self-confidence,” Strain said.
The exhibit features over 80 pieces, with approximately 50 coming from students at the Art 1, Art 2 and Art 3 levels at NKHS and 28 pieces from Davisville students.
“The work, I think, is exemplary,” Gagnon said. “I personally have worked in school systems as a music teacher and I have been wildly impressed by the quality of student work as well as the variety of student work that comes out of North Kingstown. They seem to have just a terrific team, they must have a really diverse curriculum.”
The full annual two-week student exhibit was supposed to take place in May. However, with both the schools and the gallery shut down, it was impossible to both host the show and collect the artwork to do so, though some works were able to be displayed in virtual galleries as students created pieces from home.
“(I was impressed by) their drive to continually produce unique pieces along with their different developed styles at home with teacher-led instruction,” Strain said.
Before COVID-19, the WAA gallery was scheduled to be closed this week to complete some projects, but with those done earlier this year while the gallery was closed, Gagnon approached Strain over the summer with an idea: use the week to host a student mini gallery.
“I said, ‘Do you want to move ahead and do a mini exhibit?’ and she was thrilled to be offered the opportunity,” Gagnon said.
The pair, soon joined by Lambert, then spent the summer planning out the gallery, which debuted Tuesday.
“The art itself embodies great composition and level of skill is amazing,” Strain said. “The works are simply creative, unique and fun.”
For Strain, it gives her another opportunity to share her students’ work with the public, something they won’t be able to do at their in-school gallery until after the pandemic. While she admits that this year comes with a much larger set of challenges and requires more time and effort in preparation than usual, she still fully plans on bringing more of her students’ work out to the public as she would any year.
“I am still planning on exhibiting student artwork in the Scholastics Art Awards competition and exhibit, the Hera Gallery, the NK Free Library, the Congressman Jim Langevin and Senator Jack Reed’s High School Art Competitions, Wickford Art Association Gallery and South County Hospital show as well,” Strain said, adding she’ll be “very busy” over the next few months. “Students will create and I am happy to share their artistic ability as much as I can.”
The North Kingstown Middle and High School Mini Exhibit is on display at the Wickford Art Association gallery at 36 Beach Street through this Sunday during gallery hours from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The next exhibit, the 8th Annual Poetry & Art exhibition, will debut next Friday and run through Oct. 18.
For more information on the Wickford Art Association, visit their website wickfordart.org.