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Springville students bring ?art to the community

On June 5, 2010, the Springville-Griffith Institute Art Club had a rather crazy schedule that went something like this: Arrive at Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Frantically put back together the colossal piece of art that had consumed the last two months of the members' lives. Smear black paint all over face. Put face/hand/foot through a hole inside the artwork. Stay there for the next several hours in the sweltering sun and make crazy noises. Break. Eat ice cream. Win award. Happily destroy artwork that had been so cruelly uncomfortable for the last three hours. Go home and take a nap.

The following year, they had a similar schedule, except this time they arrived at the Albright-Knox dressed like they had walked out of the 1920s. Prop up a new piece of art that had taken three months to paint. Pretend to be a rather crazy American in France for three hours. Do not know any French words so yell "baguette" and "croissant" a lot. Break. Eat ice cream. Rip down artwork. Go home and nap.

Sounds rather crazy, right?

Perhaps I should explain this a bit better …

Back in 2010, more than 30 people signed up for Springville-Griffith's Art Club, got their picture taken for the yearbook, and then stopped showing up for meetings, leaving only a few devoted students that were passionate about art.

When asked why they stayed in the club, the members all expressed similar interests.

"I really liked the idea of being involved in the arts outside of the classroom," said Emily Priester, a junior now in her third year of Art Club.

"I wasn't taking any art classes, so I joined at the beginning of the freshman year, but I stopped coming because of sports. But my friends were really enjoying it so I rejoined. Now I love it so much," said junior Tara Felser.

The motley crew, made up of mostly freshmen, got to work. Under the tutelage of Charlie Houseman and Angela Ginnitti (both Springville art teachers), the group got heavily involved in the club.

For their first year they had two major plans: to participate in Art Alive at the Albright-Knox and to host Arts Night at the school. Arts Night used to be an annual event for Springville, but it had long since fallen into disrepair in a dusty corner of the art room, only to be brushed off and reintroduced into Springville's mainstream events.

After several months of working and planning, the two events were finalized and ready to go.

Arts Night went off with a bang. The main idea for the event was to show the community the artsy stuff that the high school students had been working on.

Springville's main lobby was crowded. In one corner of the room the a cappella group sang away, rotating with the Shakespeare society reciting lines from the Bard's plays. In another corner, a pottery wheel was spinning noisily as people attempted to throw a pot on it. Occasionally, a squeal was heard as the pot was thrown back at them, launched right off the wheel. Young children played at another pottery table, working the clay and forming shapes and animals from it. Students were drawing, folding origami and learning how to print among a variety of other things.

"It's cool to see parents and other community members come [to Arts Night.] They are really excited and enjoy seeing the demos," said Tara.

"Arts Night is a fun way to express to the community what we have learned in our art classes all year," agreed Emily.

Besides all the planning, the Art Club had been building and painting a huge sculpture. Made up of boxes and painted black, the students re-created Louise Nevelson's "Sky Cathedral."

"I think it is fun [to build the artwork.] It's fun to collaborate all our ideas to see how we interpreted it," Tara said.

Which brings us back to that crazy schedule.

Art Alive is an event that the Albright-Knox hosts each year where students bring artwork to life. Elementary, middle and high school students converge, along with the occasional outside group, to show off their work.

The tricky part about this is that the students have to be part of the artwork.

Since Springville's "Sky Cathedral" was all black, the Art Club painted their faces black and wore black clothes.

Then, the students stood behind the boxes, their faces, hands and feet poking through holes in the sculpture. To add some extra flair, the students made crazy noises, whistling, snapping and clanking away.

Family, friends and art lovers alike walked around all the different displays that the artists had constructed and were now a part of, admiring their handiwork. The guests were able to vote on their favorite artwork, along with a set of judges.

"Art Alive is a great way to see other people's interpretations of art and a great way to work with friends," said Emily.

The event ends with an awards ceremony. The Springville freshmen were very surprised when they won the Handyman Award for Best Craftsmanship, along with a cash prize.

The next year, the group (now with a couple of more members) planned to do the same two events.

Arts Night 2011 went off quite well, this time outside under a tent.

And Art Alive? After the first day was rained out, with the Art Club scrambling to try and save their artwork, the next day went much better.

This time, they reproduced "Americans in Paris" by Guy Pène du Bois. This artwork was much different than Nevelson's sculpture from the previous year. The students wanted to make the artwork come completely alive, and give the women in the picture personalities.

Since the artwork took place in the 1920s, the girls pretended to be flappers and spoke about famous people and events of the day to make the artwork come to life.

Tyler Degenfelder, always the lone boy of the group, had to create his own character since no males were depicted in the picture. He pretended to be a street performer, playing his violin, and a tour guide.

"It's fun being in Art Club because you can just be yourself," said Tyler, a junior and three-year member.

While the group didn't win any awards last year, they still had fun laughing and acting together.

"Art Club is just a really fun ?way to hang out with friends and get inspiration in other members' work to come together and create something amazing," said junior and third-year member Racheal Smith.

This year, the group has been hard at work once again. Arts Night took place on May 11 with a silent auction added to the event. Chairs that were refurbished by the students were sold.

Come see what they have created for Art Alive, which will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave.

Alissa Roy is a junior at Springville-Griffith Institute.