BRISTOL — March is Youth Arts Month across the nation, and for the last nine years, Art on Main in downtown Bristol has marked the occasion with an Emerging Artists Exhibit that gives young Five Town Area artists an opportunity to shine in a professional gallery setting.
Students with exceptional talent and dedication to the arts from Mount Abraham Union High School are selected by Mount Abe art teachers for the annual gallery exhibition. Their art is professionally framed and displayed at Art on Main for the month of March.
This year, the exhibit features works from 11 MAUHS students: Madeline Chester, Fiona Cole, William Kittredge, Eliza Letourneau, Jessie Lyons, Rider MacCrellish, Reed Martin, Emma Ober, Rachael Orvis, Morgan Salter, and Alicia Stone. Their artwork ranges from pencil drawings to ceramics, wire statues to miniature animal figurines made of felt.
“That’s part of what’s fun about the show,” said Elise Cleary, who heads up the Mount Abe art department along with Bruce Babbett and Ellen Arapakos. “There’s such a wide range of work being exhibited. I think it’s representative of our student body, how diverse they are and how multi-talented.”
The gallery also becomes an important community hub each year during the show, according to Carolyn Ashby, the gallery manager at Art on Main.
“It provides a public space to let the community come and see the talent of its youth,” Ashby said.
The Emerging Artists Exhibit began in 2005 with an exhibition that featured work from 25 students. The number of artists displaying work in the show fluctuates each year, but Ashby estimates that more than 100 student artists from the Five Town community have been featured in the space since the program’s launch.
“They are selected on the basis of their artistic talent and dedication to creating art as well as their potential as future artists,” said Cleary.
Ashby added that a number of the exhibit’s alumni had gone on to major in the arts in college, while others have found work as craftspeople. Art on Main has also sold student works to gallery patrons; Ashby recalled that a local sugaring business had once inquired about licensing student artwork for product labels and packaging.
“There’s definitely an impact,” Ashby said.
The exhibit is always held in March to coincide with Youth Arts Month, a national event promoted by the Council for Art Education and the National Art Education Association with the aim of celebrating arts in education, affirming the value of the arts for children, and promoting support for quality school art programs. Art on Main took to heart those organizations’ suggestion “to increase community understanding and interest in art and art education through involvement in art exhibits, workshops, and other creative venues.”
“This exhibit is a really important — and the longest-running — component of our commitment as a nonprofit to connecting our community and the arts,” Ashby said. “It provides affirmation for the students participating and also gives them, and their friends, an opportunity to learn about other artists from throughout Vermont.”
The Emerging Artists Exhibit will be on display in the Art on Main gallery from Tuesday, March 5, through Tuesday, March 26. A celebratory reception was held on March 8.