BENNINGTON — On long tables down the center of the gallery at The Left Bank are trays of a diverse array of cuisine, including a sushi bar, ramen, steak, poppers and Friday night wings — all believably crafted from recycled materials and other art supplies.
This is a contribution from the sixth grade at Village School of North Bennington to an annual, all-student show, on display at the gallery at 5 Bank St., in North Bennington, through May 31. The exhibit, organized through a partnership with Vermont Arts Exchange, features artwork from all of the school’s students in pre-K through sixth grade. Mediums include ceramics, paintings, prints and sculpture.
Caitilin McAdoo, teaching artist and art program coordinator for the Village School, noted that children have different preferred art forms. While some like to draw, others feel more comfortable using clay or building sculptures.
“I try to give them a lot of different materials, so they can sort of find something they like to do,” said McAdoo. “I’ve tried to make sure that we aren’t just all two-dimensional. Because that is hard for some people.”
On a recent day at the gallery, McAdoo excitedly described the processes that went into creating the various art forms in the exhibit. On one section of the wall are native animal masks. Animals represented include a bobcat, a coyote, an otter and a deer. The third grade built the animal faces using theater masks as a base, giving the creatures an occasionally eerie, human-like quality — especially in the eyes.
Another section of wall, devoted to the fifth grade, features 2D prints of bugs — and a snail — created by cutting into rubber blocks. The kindergarten class drew buildings in town; their colorful, wiggly-lined interpretations stand on display in one corner of the gallery.
These are just some examples of the students’ creative expressions on display.
“We see these kids as young artists. And we see that our art room, their art classroom, is a studio,” said Matthew Perry, executive director of Vermont Arts Exchange.
Timothy J. Newbold, head of school at the Village School, said developmental studies show students’ interest and confidence in their artistic ability tend to drop as they move through their elementary school years.
“I am proud of the fact that our school is actively working against this trend, and many of our students, at all grade levels, think of themselves as artists,” Newbold said. “They find joy in learning to work with many different mediums and are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art.”
Judie Evrard Brower, vice chairwoman of the school’s Board of Trustees, said one goal is a continued appreciation of art.
“Our goal is that this will continue in their lives, even if it’s not in school, that they’ll continue to have some interest, and if they walk into a museum or any place and see a piece of art, that something will connect,” Brower said.
Also, Perry added, art can be a lifeline in troubled times.
“I think in art there’s a lot of love and kindness, you know — it’s based in good stuff,” he said. “It’s healing and can be really helpful for all of us, the more we are exposed to it and around it.”