‘Evening of the Arts’ showcases student talent


Color, music, and excitement filled the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Performing Arts Center and nearby corridors and classrooms on May 25 for the annual “Evening of the Arts.” A high point of the springtime’s end-of-year events, the three-hour celebration spotlights student creativity in a variety of arts endeavors. With its array of art and design displays, activities, and stage performances, the evening is an undeniable testament to the value and popularity of arts instruction in the school curriculum.

Within moments of the doors opening, the exhibition area was packed with parents, students, community members, and teachers admiring and discussing the offerings. The spacious lobby featured display panels hung with paintings, photos, drawings, and prints, along with collections of student-made pottery.

Olivia Jacobs sat at a table lobby surrounded by copies of her book “This We Believe,” greeting friends and well-wishers with a smile. Ms. Jacobs compiled the volume, containing 42 essays (including her own) by “people I know and love,” as her ambitious senior project. Contributors range from students and teachers to older community members, and even a 6-year-old she babysits for. Ms. Jacobs signed and sold copies, with proceeds to the Student Activities Fund.

Senior Addison Geiger showed off his unique all-metal guitar to visitors. Although the shiny skeletal instrument bears little resemblance to a conventional guitar, Mr. Geiger explained its functions and demonstrated its ability to make music.

Spotted among the crowd were Monina von Opel and Edward Miller, said to be scouting for student artwork for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s gallery collection.

In the Performing Arts Center, visitors were treated to musical selections by the orchestra, jazz band, concert band, and choral groups and ensembles. More small performances took place in a classroom transformed into an intimate coffee-house venue.

Adding to the festive atmosphere, language students presided over a massive selection of sweet and savory international treats. Proceeds from this “Tour Around the World Buffet” benefited the Nancy Orazem Memorial Scholarship Fund, honoring a well-loved teacher of French and German who died in 2005.

The extensive exhibition continued through the corridors. Along with traditional artistic media, there were displays of outfits and accessories by fashion design students, architectural renderings, sculpture, graphic design projects, demonstrations, videos, and more. A collection of moving drawings of Syrian refugees were on display for silent auction.

Students from the Print Club sold colorful T-shirts with original designs. Member Oshantay Waite explained that the club practices its print-design work by producing posters, flyers, T-shirts, and other items for school clubs and events. Thanks to her experience with the program, she began her own print-design business, while juggling additional responsibility as music director for the RHS radio station, WYOB.

Inside the art classroom, Tiffiney Shoquist, the drawing and painting teacher, conducted the school’s first-ever Art Throwdown. The friendly contests drew students and visitors of all ages to try their hands at three creative challenges: designing a T-shirt, making sculpture from random materials, and a “face-off” portrait drawing event.

“I just wanted to introduce it as a fun way for people to get involved in art making, have fun, and see that you can make some really great stuff in a short period of time,” Ms. Shoquist said. She got the idea at an art teachers’ conference in Chicago. “It was a lot of fun, and people who participated had a great time!”

Other hands-on activities were available too. One table offered printed mandala patterns and plenty of bright pencils to color them in. The science department’s windmill-design project captivated visitors.

Math teacher Marylee Carlomagno was demonstrating robots with a science fiction look. One is immersible in water (students tried it out at the YMCA pool). Now they are hoping to fit it with a GoPro camera and take it to the ocean to get a look at mysterious sights under the surface.

“This is 100 percent hands-on learning,” Ms. Carlomagno said. She said that while students are sometimes reluctant to get down to work in math classes, they are always excited about doing robotics projects. “Maybe we have to make more education like this,” she suggested.

Chris Baer, chairman of the five-teacher art, design, and technology department, has been at the school since 1995. He said that although he has had a hand in structuring some new classes, his predecessor, Paul Brissette, designed most of the current programs. “I fill big shoes, and much of our success is modeled after his,” he said.

The department includes classes in drawing, painting, fashion design, architecture, crafts, sculpture, and emerging technologies. Mr. Baer said that both teachers and students take part in preparing and setting up for this show, and that this year students took a larger role than usual.

“I thought it was very successful,” Mr. Baer said later about the evening. “There was an excellent turnout, lots of participation in the throwdown’s live events, and loads of compliments all around.”