Camden Students to Unveil Virtual Gallery Exhibit at Rutgers-Camden
Tom McLaughlin, Rutgers University–Camden media specialist, contributed to this report
For the past few years, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts (RCCA) has led an innovative project at four Camden schools, funded by an Arts Education Special Initiative Grant from the N.J. State Council on the Arts.
Now, the RCCA is collecting artwork that students from those four schools created for “virtual” gallery exhibits that will be available for the public to enjoy from mid-May until the end of June.
Life has changed a lot since RCCA’s Museum Mentorship program began. A year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and a national focus on social justice have had a profound effect on Camden youngsters and it shows – through their posters, digital collages, poems and other artwork.
“The schools switched gears with their exhibition themes after COVID-19 and a summer of social justice awareness hit the country,” says Miranda Powell, arts educator at Rutgers–Camden. “You see that very much reflected in their artwork.”
Despite a switch to virtual learning, students from Brimm Medical Arts High School, Thomas H. Dudley Family School, Holy Name School, and U.S. Wiggins College Preparatory Lab Family School continued working on their projects. They are now preparing to curate, design, and install their virtual art exhibits for the Stedman and Camden Fireworks galleries.
“Many school populations struggled during the pandemic and virtual learning,” says Powell. “As a result, we were as accommodating as possible to make sure all students maintained a connection to the Museum Mentorship Program in some meaningful way.”
At Brimm, Dudley, and Holy Name schools, the RCCA had teaching artists to lead virtual sessions that helped students hone their visions and themes, and create their final pieces of artwork.
Brimm held virtual sessions with Erik James Montgomery – artist and photographer and “A New View–Camden exhibitor – who introduced students to the methods of creating “artivisim” after the 12th-grade group expressed an interest in social justice themes.
Holy Name School wanted to help their participating 5th to 8th graders acknowledge their interests social justice issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, and how COVID-19 impacted students. They worked with teaching artist Hollis Citron to learn how to express themselves ideas through poster design.
Fourth graders at Dudley Family School continued with their initial exhibition theme: Cultural and family identity. Working with art teacher, Barbara Gail, visual artist Doris Noguiera-Rogers and poet Anndee Hochman, the youngest students in the Museum Mentorship Program created digital collages and poems using Google Draw.
Powell and Noreen Scott Garrity, the RCCA’s associate education director, began working with the schools on various art initiatives in 2018, enabling students to “really dig into ideas behind art and art exhibitions,” said Scott Garrity.
She and Powell began to lead a series of studio art workshops to help youngsters to gain appreciation for various kinds of art and learn how to start with a theme, to create original artwork, then build and promote an exhibition. “They are seeing how the whole process works,” Scott Garrity said.