Best In Show

JOHNSTOWN – Broadalbin-Perth High School senior Taz Taylor got the nickname “Squirrel” from his soccer teammates last year.

“We were trying to figure out who on the JV team would win the ‘Hunger Games’ if we were put into that situation,” Taylor said. “One teammate said me because I was starting to grow a beard at the time, and ‘Squirrel’ kind of fit that.”

This school year, Taylor needed two subjects to draw for a three-dimensional, mixed-media assignment in Wendy Carroll’s art class. The project features two images on a board folded in a zig-zag pattern, like a paper fan. The images are drawn on the panels in a way that when the piece is viewed from the left side, one complete image is seen, and the other image is visible from the right side.

Taylor chose a bird as one subject, since he’d had some success with a scratchboard image of an eagle a few years ago. For the second, he took inspiration from his nickname.

“I wanted to draw a squirrel because it was something different,” Taylor said. “I told some people about drawing a squirrel, and a lot of people just laughed and thought it was pretty funny, because they knew my nickname was Squirrel. … I wanted to show people that I could draw something that I personally never thought I could draw myself, and obviously with the squirrel I figured some people would get a kick out of it.”

Taylor’s piece is one of 50 that will be shown at the 23rd annual High School Regional Art Exhibition at Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s Perrella Gallery. It’s also one of five in the juried exhibition to receive a juror’s award. Another B-P student, sophomore Carissa Hudman, received an honorable mention for her piece, “Graffitti.”

The show, which opens Monday and will conclude with a closing reception April 16, features works from high school students within a 50-mile radius of the college. Local schools represented in the show include Gloversville High School, Johnstown High School, Fonda-Fultonville High School, Northville High School, Mayfield High School, Amsterdam High School, B-P and Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

“It’s hard to get into this show, actually,” Carroll said. “[Because] it’s juried, you really never know what they’re going to pick, because each person has their own individual interests, tastes and educational experiences. So it’s always a surprise.”

Joel Chapin, head of FMCC’s art department and Perrella Gallery director, started the show in 1991. Since then it’s been held every year except for two, when the gallery was being constructed. Prior to the gallery opening in 1999, the show was held in the college’s library.

“The idea came about, I think, out of this need that there had been at the time,” Chapin said. “There were plenty of outlets for athletic students, and even to a lesser extent music and things like that, but there really wasn’t a whole lot in the way of art. There was always the Fulton County show, but that was limited to Fulton County.”

Chapin wanted to give art teachers in area districts a forum to display their best students’ works in a professional setting. At the time he began the show, there weren’t many other regional high school shows for students to exhibit in, he said.

Since that time, more regional high school shows have cropped up at other colleges across the country, Chapin said. The FMCC show has grown to encompass anywhere from nine to 16 school districts per year; this year 13 districts are represented.

According to Chapin, many colleges, including FMCC, use the shows as a recruiting tool, bringing attention to their art programs.

“It’s often the first time [a high school student] would have a resume-worthy show,” Chapin said. “They come up, and many times I get in conversations with students, and many times I’ll see them back in classes in the fall. So it’s been useful as sort of putting attention onto the programs that we have.”

The fact the show is juried also helps give the students “a leg up,” Chapin said. Each school is allowed to submit no more than 40 pieces of art, and a juror or small panel of jurors decides what goes into the show.

This year, retired Siena College art professor Greg Zoltowski made the selections. He said his choices were based on professionalism in the use of the medium chosen for each piece; the technical complexity of the work; and the personal expression exhibited in each piece. Zoltowski has juried shows in the past, but never a high school show.

“I didn’t have to modify my selections because the work was of a tremendously high quality,” he said. “Really, they could compete very highly with the best of the college students that I’ve known. The work was outstanding.”

Deborah Deming, who teaches art for grades 10 through 12 at Gloversville High School, said the school submitted 21 pieces to the show. Of those, two got in: a piece from junior Carolyn Peck and another from sophomore Jasmin Jones.

“Well, they [the students] don’t really understand what [a juried show] is all about, but when we do our work we critique it as a group, and part of that process is like being a juror,” Deming said. “When it comes to this juried show, when they understand why certain pieces went in and why certain pieces didn’t, they learn how to better themselves as artists. … It’s all about teaching.”

Jones has painted and drawn her whole life, but her piece in the show is a copper relief, a medium she had never worked in before. She said she was “excited and baffled” when she found out hers was one of the two pieces accepted.

“I told my parents, and they were shocked, too,” Jones said. “They’re really proud of me.”

Taylor, who said he plans to go into engineering after graduation, combining his love of math and art, also was surprised to learn that he was not only accepted, but won a juror’s award.

“Finding out about winning – to get an art show opportunity like this, and winning an award, it kind of makes it a bigger deal than you actually thought it would be,” Taylor said.

Chapin said he has received some resistance toward the juried nature of the show. However, he said it’s important to recognize when a student is exceptionally skilled.

“It’s a philosophical thing; there have been some teachers that say, ‘I just philosophically don’t believe in this; I think art should be really inclusive,'” Chapin said. “And there’s always a part of me that, I do believe that. But at some level, if you are studying art, there’s always going to be somebody that really rises above, just like with musicians or something – you have people that are just exceptional at something. … So we sort of have to balance between [that, and being] as inclusive as possible [and] encouraging arts, because there’s a lot of people that, [for them], the arts are not encouraged.”