Local students showcase the future of art at Belknap Mill



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Sydney Chapman, a sixth grade student at Winnisquam Middle School, stands beside a display of “hand and rod” puppets created by her and her and fellow classmates. Their work, along with that of hundreds of students in the Lakes Region, is on display during the Arts Alive gallery exhibit at the Belknap Mill in Laconia until April 3. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
March 30, 2011
LACONIA - Art is indeed alive, as proven by the hundreds of students from the Lakes Region who have been given the opportunity to showcase their talents at the Belknap Mill gallery over the past few weeks.

Through a cooperative program with the Mill and area schools, two floors of the building are overflowing with paintings, ceramics, pencil sketches, paper art and so much more during the Arts Alive exhibit, on display now through April 3.

Students and art teachers from the Laconia, Belmont, Gilford and Winnisquam school districts have been hard at work over the months leading up to the March exhibit, and that work has now blossomed into showrooms full of their creativity.

For some of the younger artists, it was their first gallery appearance, while older students have grown up looking forward each year to their moment in the spotlight at the Belknap Mill.

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Ceramic pieces created by fourth grade students at Belmont Elementary School are part of the Arts Alive Exhibit being presented by the Belknap Mill until April 3. Artwork by students of all ages from several local schools is being showcased in the event. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
"Imagine that these boys and girls can now say their art was on display in a gallery that had (the artwork of) Yoko Ono here only last month," said John Moriarty, executive director of the Belknap Mill.

Each school was given a specific evening to welcome family and friends to the exhibit and last Wednesday night; it was the Winnisquam School District's open house, where parents from students of all five of the district's schools invited to browse the exhibits, have refreshments and hear live performances from local school groups.

Joe Cilley is the new art teacher for Winnisquam Regional High School, and he was proud to show the accomplishments of his new students. Cilley came onboard just a few months ago and got right to work on art for the exhibit, hoping to inspire them and bring out their talents for all to see and enjoy. Last week he stood proudly beside a wall where beautiful sketches, paintings of wildlife, still life presentations and other art were on display for the public.

"When we started working toward this, I brought in some taxidermy pieces I had for the students to study. When else can you get that close to wildlife?" he said, pointing out paintings of pheasants and other animals by his students.

Among the artwork from WRHS were two white and black charcoal still life drawings done on brown paper. The pieces were done by junior Brandy Hamlet and sophomore Sean Connor, featuring rolls of toilet paper and paper towels with a few flowers tucked amongst them.

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Joe Cilley and Jessica Cobbett, art teachers in the Winnisquam Regional School District, stand before a wall showcasing the art work of WRHS students. The students’ work is part of the Arts Alive Exhibit at the Belknap Mill in Laconia, on display until April 3. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
Cilley said those particular pieces were part of a class on ellipticals and composition.

Nearly everyone passing through the room was drawn to the two drawings, amazed at the simple beauty they depicted. One woman said she had never looked at rolls of paper products in such an artistic manner but would certainly hang either one of the drawings in her home.

Middle school art teacher Jessica Corbett's students also drew acclaim from visitors for their clay and cloth hand and rod puppets. Each child invented a super hero character. Each character's head was then formed from clay, painted and glued on to clothing the students designed in accordance with their hero's super powers. "Super Kitty," "Marshmallow Man," Pencil Man" and "Chocolate man" were just a few of the puppets on display.

Sixth grader Sydney Chapman was the creator of Chocolate Man. She said a lot of long hours and other hard work went into creating her super hero, but she had a lot of fun along the way, using not only her artistic talents but creative writing skills, as well.

"Students not only had to make their puppets, but they had to then write a story about their super hero. They really got involved in these characters," said Cobbett.

Third grade students from Gilford Elementary School had a colorful display of ceramic baby dinosaurs hatching from eggs, and beautiful paper crafts and 3-D masks were presented by fourth graders at the school.

Sanbornton Central School's kids brought fish art as one of their many displays, and Southwick and Union Sanborn schools in Winnisquam had a mural and other sketches on exhibit. Collages, sketches, masks and graceful ceramic pieces were also submitted by students from Belmont and Laconia schools.

"Arts Alive" at the Belknap Mill was accompanied by a proclamation from Laconia Mayor Michael Seymor, who declared March to be "Arts Alive Month" throughout the region.

Individual open house events were also scheduled over the past three weeks for the Belmont, Gilford, and Laconia school districts, so each district had an evening to appreciate the talents of their own students while viewing work from other schools, as well.

The exhibits will remain on display until April 3.

Located in downtown Laconia, the Belknap Mill is open seven days a week, and the public is welcome to stop by any day to enjoy the talent of young local artists, said Moriarty. Admission to the gallery is free. More information on upcoming events sponsored by the Belknap Mill Society can be found at www.belknapmill.org/programs.

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