Teen Arts Festival inspires artistic spontaneity

Staff Writer

 Students from Matawan Regional High School, top left, and Long Branch High School, above, perform at the 2015 Teen Arts Festival. At left, students explore visual arts by designing mural sculptures with spray paint and paint markers. Students from Matawan Regional High School, top left, and Long Branch High School, above, perform at the 2015 Teen Arts Festival. At left, students explore visual arts by designing mural sculptures with spray paint and paint markers. Art isn’t always meant to be permanent; sometimes the most lasting works are gone almost as soon as they’re created.

The idea of spontaneity as it relates to art ran throughout the 2015 Monmouth Teen Arts Festival, held March 19-20 at Brookdale Community College, Lincroft section of Middletown. As they are each year, nearly 1,500 teenagers from throughout Monmouth County were invited to celebrate different forms of the arts, including dance, music, theater, creative writing, visual arts and film.

This year’s theme, “Art of the Street,” encouraged the students to embrace art that is very much “immediate,” according to Sandy Taylor, arts education coordinator at the Monmouth County Arts Council, which sponsors the festival.

 PHOTOS BY STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR PHOTOS BY STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR “These kids have grown up with that kind of art making,” Taylor said. “Today, they can record a song and put it on YouTube and they can publish it on the Internet, and they can become an artist with a can of spray paint.

“It’s not necessarily meant to be permanent. It’s not to hang in a museum.”

Many students had work showcased at the festival, and through the guidance of experienced arts professionals, the students participated in several workshops and classes to further inspire their artistic vision. In one workshop, student groups used spray paint, acrylics and paint markers to design canvases that were eventually brought together to form one giant, overlapping canvas. Although students risked having their designs covered up by other canvases, many of them acknowledged that it was simply part of the artistic process.

“Nothing can really be permanent,” said Brenden Mari Davis, a sophomore at Collier School, Marlboro, as he drew a caveman on his canvas. “You get to put these free, random thoughts on the canvas, and just watch more be put over it. It’s part of the point. It’s part of the process.”

Amy Faris, the workshop facilitator and an adjunct art instructor at Brookdale, said it encourages the students to consider art as an ongoing dialogue and collaborative project.

“You come together to make something, but at some point you may have to give a little to let somebody else have some room,” Faris said. “It’s not so much totally obliterating what’s come before you, but maybe responding to what’s there.”

In another workshop, students explored the concept of “found art” by creating art through what some might consider garbage — like bottle caps, coffee cups or magazine clippings.

Lisa Bagwell, a found-objects artist from Red Bank, said she enjoyed seeing the students discover the possibilities of the things they could create.

“I want to create an atmosphere for them to just do whatever they feel like,” she said. “I think school’s too structured. I hated school when I was a kid.”

In another room, a wall was filled with Post-It notes on which students wrote their feelings about art, with messages such as, “I don’t know how to art good” or “Art makes me feel alive.”

Outside, students used chalk to dress up the campus sidewalks. Tiffany Thompson, a junior at Biotechnology High School, Freehold, drew a broken heart for passersby to walk over.

“It’s kind of like representing people walking all over your heart and ruining things,” Thompson said as she traced her friend’s shoe in order to create footsteps walking over the heart. “I mean, everybody makes their mark on you.”

Like many other students at the festival, Thompson said she doesn’t regularly have the opportunity to tap into her artistic side, as Biotechnology High School has no art classes.

“I think it’s cool that people get to express their ideas in different ways,” Thompson said. “We don’t get to do this on a normal basis.”

Tanner Policari, a sophomore at Matawan Regional High School, had a drawing entered in the festival for the second time.

He said he feels inspired — rather than pressured — having his work showcased among hundreds of other students’ entries.

“I won’t say it’s competitive, but more of like [it sends a] a message seeing all this great artwork,” Policari said. “It makes you actually want to go back and make an improvement.”

Some students, like Mater Dei Preparatory High School junior Justin Hintz, said they don’t consider themselves to be good artists at all — but that doesn’t stop them from embracing art anyway.

“Why do I keep drawing?” Hintz said as he drew a chalk figure of a Pokemon Master Ball. “Because I actually like drawing. Even though I think sometimes [my work] gets bad, I keep drawing because it’s fun to do.

“ … Everyone here definitely has some talent, and everyone sharing their talent — and other schools showing off, and your school showing off — is just a great thing.”