Student art show brightens Aspen Art Museum, shows kids what’s possible
For The Aspen Times
Ten-year-old Brynley Velez didn’t just have fun bringing her creative talents to the Aspen Art Museum for the 2023 Youth Art Expo.
“It’s really cool for kids to do things like this and have their artwork be seen in a museum. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” the Red Hill Elementary School student said with a smile.
After exhibiting the works of world-famous surrealist Herve Telemaque’s “A Hopscotch of the Mind” on two floors, the Aspen Art Museum now is highlighting in the same two-floor space more than 1,000 works made by students from kindergarten through 12th grade at a dozen schools throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. The exhibit takes place every other year.
The students’ multidisciplinary works of art range from painting and puppet-making to video and audio material and are accessible for children of all ages and backgrounds. Students were able to work on any of the projects they chose, including flying birds, giant turtles, shadow puppets, and capes and masks.
The exhibition titled “Youth, Art, Expo: Puppets, Masks, and Storytelling” opened with a kick-off event and daylong reception.
For the opening, Theresa Booth Brown, education and community programs manager for the Aspen Art Museum, curated a lineup of events. Highlights of this year’s festivities were performances by MAPS, Poncili, and Soul Rhythm African Drumming; a pancake and waffle station; and roller-skating photographers. Attendees were also invited to color an accompanying titular mural installation.
Clad in pajamas to celebrate the “Puppets, Pancakes, Pajamas” theme, families stood before the towering mural, contributing their overlapping artistic flair, as attendees dropped by the event throughout the day to celebrate student artists, enjoy decorated pancakes and waffles, and take in the day’s performances.
Before the reception, students had spent the past several months creating their works of art in collaboration with two non-profits, MAPS and Poncili Creacion, which were tapped by the museum to design curriculum and provide museum workshops for the community’s students, which the museum called Wednesday Workshop.
“Each collective was asked to provide lesson plans and instructional video for the the students,” said Booth Brown.
MAPS is a New York City-based non-profit, which stands for Music, Art, Puppet, Sound. The organization was co-founded by musician Aaron Rourk and artist Rachel Sherk. Together with Poncili Creacion — a Puerto Rico-based non-profit co-founded by brothers and puppeteers Pablo and Efrain Del Hierro — the two non-profits provided teachers with instructional materials, so that students could work on their projects during art class at their schools.
“Teachers followed the lesson plans and videos provided by our artists, which stressed individuality of expression, allowed students to make individual choices, and gave students opportunities to explore their own creativity to make something unique,” Booth Brown said.
For many of the student artists, the experience of seeing their work hung up on the walls of a major contemporary art institution was meaningful, particularly for those who had never visited a museum before.
“Giving art a place of importance in the lives of young people is important. We also have welcomed a very large number of first-time visitors to the museum coming to see this exhibition, and that is something very important to us,” she said.
The museum aimed to give as many students as possible the opportunity to learn by creating and showcasing that creativity in the museum for the community to see.
“The response of our community has been very positive,” Booth Brown said.
In addition to participating in the exhibition, artists were awarded a certificate designed by the museum to mark their participation.
“People get to see my artwork, and it’s a really cool new thing for me,” Velez said proudly, while pointing to her puppet. “Northern,” in the gallery.
You can color the mural, view “Northern,” and catch the expo featuring the students’ works of art at the museum through May 28. For more information, visit aspenartmuseum.org/exhibitions/327-youth-art-expo-puppets-masks-and-storytelling.
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