PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — While many students have artwork hanging on their refrigerators at home, some County kids are displaying their creations in a more public place — the Aroostook Centre Mall.
The second annual Essence of the North student art exhibition, sponsored by the Northern pARTners Aroostook County Regional Art Educators group, is now on display through April 2 at the mall and features selected art pieces from school districts in Caribou, Limestone, Connor, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent, Hodgdon, Houlton, Mars Hill, Presque Isle-Mapleton and Washburn.
“This year we have 11 school districts participating; last year we had nine,” said Ruth McAtee, who teaches art in SAD 1 in the Presque Isle area and is a member of the art educators group. “There’s a lot of outstanding talent represented here from kindergarten to the high school level. There are some beautiful drawings and paintings; it’s unique because you see what’s going on in other school districts and what their kids are doing.
“I’m very happy with the results. It’s good to see people coming in just to look at the student artwork. Kids are here, families are here, sometimes the art teachers come,” she said. “The kids aren’t just interested in their own artwork, but they’re going around looking at other students’ work. It’s great.”
A reception for the student artists and their families was held on March 15 at the mall. The official opening had been planned for earlier in March, which is Youth Art Month, but a snowstorm forced the event to be rescheduled.
The displayed pieces were chosen by each individual school’s art teacher.
“We have to limit it,” said McAtee. “Our range is anywhere from 14 to 30 pieces of art per school.”
Mason Pelletier, a fifth-grader at the David J. Lyon Washburn District Elementary School, was one of the many students who attended the opening reception. He had a “landscape name” on display.
“It’s imaginary; you just get to make it up,” he said. “I put a bunch of aliens and stuff on it. Up in the top corner of my picture I drew an alien and a UFO and it says, ‘By Disco Dan. This planet has already been invaded.’ I made up the name and thought the aliens would be cool.
“I like art,” said Pelletier, 11, noting that only two students from his classroom were chosen to participate in the exhibit. “I draw both at school and at home. It’s fun to make different things and be creative.”
Katelyn White, 11, a fifth-grader at Easton Elementary School, has two pictures on display at the mall.
“I guess my art teacher liked them both. I was really excited that she chose two because I really like both of them,” she said. “One of them is called ‘The Colors of Fall’ and I like that one because I love pictures of leaves and fall, and I love coloring leaves because they’re so colorful.
“I like to draw landscapes and animals, mostly, and flowers and plants. I’ve been drawing from as far back as I can remember … from stick people to real people,” said White, who was also featured in last year’s exhibit. “I like that you can just kind of run with it … you can use your imagination and draw whatever you want and it’s not something that you have to do. It kind of takes my mind off things like when I’m worrying for a test, I just go and draw and then I go study and I feel totally fine.”
White said she was honored to have been selected to help represent her school.
“It’s exciting having my artwork on display like this,” she said, “but then I always worry. I’ve seen some of the other artwork and I wonder if, in people’s minds, are they going to judge my work against other kids’, but I shouldn’t worry because it’s my piece of art … it’s what I design. Art is an individual thing and that’s something else that I like about it.”
Eight-year-old Chance Bragan, a second-grader at Mapleton Elementary School, was proud to see his tissue painted fish hanging on the wall.
“It took almost two weeks to do; it took a long time,” he said. “We could do whatever we wanted. I chose a fish because I really like fishing. I made it a red fish like a red snapper. I draw mostly at school; it’s fun.
“This is my first time having artwork on display here,” said Bragan. “It’s kind of neat. Now everyone knows that I did something really good.”
Art show organizers were pleased with the turnout and encourage community members to visit the gallery before April 2.
“This art exhibit gives people a chance to see what kids do in different areas of The County,” said McAtee. “It lets parents know that their kids are getting as good an art program as other schools. I encourage people to come and view the artwork. It’s amazing; they all did a great job.”