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New Perspectives - Middleton and Bridgetown students collaborate on art exhibition

Middleton Regional High School art teacher Peter Crouse sits amid paintings by his students. He was helping hang the student exhibition New Perspectives at Macdonald Museum in Middleton recently. The show opens May 24 and includes art and artist statements from Bridgetown and Middleton high school students.
Middleton Regional High School art teacher Peter Crouse sits amid paintings by his students. He was helping hang the student exhibition New Perspectives at Macdonald Museum in Middleton recently. The show opens May 24 and includes art and artist statements from Bridgetown and Middleton high school students. - Lawrence Powell

Unique and expressive show opens May 24

MIDDLETON, NS - Artists from high schools in Middleton and Bridgetown are pooling their talents for a joint exhibition at Macdonald Museum, and it’s a lot more than paint-by-numbers.

They’ve put their souls into their work and you might just be surprised how good they are. Middleton Regional High School art teacher Peter Crouse would say it’s good art because the students are honest.

The exhibition, called New Perspectives, opens May 24 at the Middleton museum at 21 School Street and features high school art selected by the art teachers at MRHS and Bridgetown Regional Community School. Opening receptions are from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday and you’re invited.

Crouse and Lori Whitman-Price of BRCS have coordinated the exhibition.

Museum Director Janice Slauenwhite said inviting the students to show their work was important to her.

“Giving someone an avenue to express who they are and what they feel and what they see and what they create is hugely important to me,” she said. “To give young people that chance is even more important because sometimes if you’re not encouraged when you’re young you put that art away and you don’t express yourself and it never does get to come out. So this, for me, is huge.”

Talented

“I hope they’re (the public) going to be surprised at how talented kids are and the way that they can develop ideas,” said Crouse. “I’ve tried, with the stuff that I’ve brought over -- and I think that Lori is probably going to approach it the same way – is try to give the audience, the public, a variety of different media, a variety of different ideas and approaches. Some of these are straight forward observational drawings. Others are they’re experimenting with different media – paper cutouts, experimenting with photography, and using paints in different ways.”

He pointed to a painting that he said started with a circle. He said it may sound simplistic, but if you ask a student to start with something and let art develop, that’s where art begins.

“This is a thematic project where kids had to pick their own topic – something that was meaningful to them – and create a series of artworks connected to that topic,” he said, indicating another piece. “So this is one of three pieces that this student did. Her title is Beautiful Misery. So she’s exploring anxiety and issues around that.”

Another student explores the different stages of a person’s life, from birth to the day you die. And yet another student is interested in sexual identity.

Celebration

“Once we get into our little art world it’s common for us to just kind of retreat into ourselves, so I really like collaborating with other schools because I get a lot of ideas when I’m with other art teachers. I love doing that,” said Whitman-Price. “The fact that Peter and I can bring this together, do this together – I hope we do it every year. It’s really nice to collaborate because we do come from different spaces and when we do get together you look at what other people are doing. You’re like ‘oh my gosh!’”

She said the word ‘celebration’ is synonymous with what they’re doing with the exhibition.

“Because when you go in you’re just uplifted by what these teenagers are doing, what these kids are up to,” she said, noting that some of the students she’s taught year after year and to see how far they’ve come is remarkable.

“I’ve had the pleasure of watching them grow within themselves. It’s not about perfecting themselves as artists but coming to terms with their own creativity and what their abilities are. To me it’s just so important that they feel good about what they’re doing, and they feel they have independent success. It’s a process of self-growth. They’re discovering independently what they’re capable of.”

She sees her job as not only teaching the students skills, but to nurture their creative growth.

“They need it for everything,” she said. “They need it for every aspect of their life. They need to feel good about themselves, and once they have that confidence they’re soaring. It’s just an amazing thing to see.”

Approach

“Given the opportunity, students want to share their ideas, and my approach to art making (because I was an artist first and then I went into teaching) is that the most important thing about art is that it’s about you – in getting who you are out there to your audience. Whether that’s an idea, the things that you enjoy to do, art is always about you and about sharing that with somebody,” Crouse said. “If you can kind of keep that in your mind, you’re going to make meaningful art for you and it becomes meaningful for other people if you can be honest and true about what you’re making.”

It’s that honesty that counts.

“The audience will always know when you’re honest with them. The audience will always know whether you’re being true,” Crouse said. “I encourage students to try to find subject matter that is true to you – ideas, emotional things that are true to you and figure out a way to incorporate it into your work. It doesn’t have to be blatantly obvious. It can be very subtle. It gives them reason to make art. Kids often think that art is just about trying to copy something that they see. You’re messing around with no purpose with paints on their hands. Art is about making something that gives something to the audience in a certain way – a piece of you. Sometimes that’s hard for kids. You’re dealing with stress, you’re dealing maybe with other issues. You don’t want to open yourself up to draw attention to yourself. But it is a way of figuring out things for yourself.”

Next Door

“The school’s next door. We have a good relationship with the school and the students come over here for various things. One more connection for them will be this art exhibit,” said Slauenwhite. “Hopefully we can find more ways. Anything we can do to connect with youth. They’re our future, and to have them interested in exhibiting here, and being part of this building – which is such a huge part of the community – is important. It’s a way to connect them to the museum. It’s a way to foster relationships. It’s healthy for everybody.”

The exhibit will run from then until the end of August.

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