Sunday's dreary weather was in sharp contrast to the colors of the Baird Center's Pierro Gallery, filled with work done by teachers in the South Orange-Maplewood schools. The gallery show, "Reaching Out/Reaching In," was preceded by an informal concert, entitled "Beatles to Beethoven," that featured district music faculty.
"Hey, that's Mr. Booth," one middle student hissed audibly, when her former teacher approached the piano to sing "Memories." Likewise, the Pierro Gallery played host to students and parents, eager to see teachers at work.
As the show was mounted, gallery director Judy Wukitsch noted that, "Most of our arts teachers, both music and visual, are professional artists outside of the school day. They're good, they exhibit and perform in a wide variety of venues, and it is quality art for all to be exposed to."
Students seemed to agree. "That's my teacher," said a second grader, nudging his sister when he read the name Jessica Fong. Seventh grader Daisy eyed South Orange Middle School teacher Ellen Hark's mosaics thoughtfully, while her companion studied Columbia High School teacher Larry McKim's series of abstract paintings.
The subtitle of the show reads, "Celebrating the Fine Arts Faculty of the South Orange/Maplewood School District," and the viewing audience was enthusiastically doing so. The gallery was full, with numerous students in attendance.
Not only do students learn to see their teachers as working professionals, says Wukitsch, but "often the teachers' personal direction impacts the type of projects they bring to the classroom." In other words, seeing a teacher's artwork might inspire future projects in the classroom.
A number of the artists represented, including Larry McKim, Ellen Weisbord and Kate Dodd, have previously passed through the Pierro Gallery's exhibition jury process and received exhibitions. However, this is the gallery's first show of this kind. Wukitsch explained that the Pierro Gallery and district have worked together for years, but this year's efforts reflect a "more formal connection."
The opening reception included a buffet of light snacks, which attracted the younger set. Indeed, one volunteer noted, "When you invite the students, it's a good thing, but the cookies go fast."
"Reaching Out, Reaching In" will be open to the public until Feb. 21.
Kate Dodd, CHS, mixed media hanging
Jon Fisher, CHS, photography
Jessica Fong, Marshall, collage
Boris Gavrilovic, CHS, film
Ellen Hark, SOMS, mosaics
Laura Kruglinski, Jefferson, photography
Cindy Malhotra, CHS, photography
Larry McKim, CHS, paintings
Lisa MacPherson SOMS, prints and paintings
JoEllen Petronzi, Tuscan, paintings
Elisabeth Blackwell Schwartz, CHS, clay
Kevin Testa, CHS, painting and installation
Ellen Weisbord, CHS, mixed media