FAIRFAX – This week Bellows Free Academy – Fairfax held its inaugural K-12 art show, lining wings in its elementary, middle and high school with everything from students’ sculptures and paintings to photos and everything in between.

“We’re showcasing the creativity of all of our students,” Kim Desjardins, the elementary school’s art teacher, said Tuesday night during the show’s opening reception. “I’m hoping that families can experience what the kids are learning all the different grade levels of our art program.”

In the elementary wing, Desjardins pointed out the labels below each work, where elementary students scrawled their names alongside the names of their work.

“Our older students, our second- to fifth-grade students, select their own piece, made their own label and made up a title,” Desjardins said. “They really helped curate the show, so they have a lot of ownership in it now.

“It’s important that they have that ownership because they’re the artists,” Desjardins continued. “I really try to distill that into them – they’re artists.”

She also pointed out the bottlecap mural in the elementary school’s stairwell, assembled by students as a part of a lesson around recycling, plastics and the Sustainable Development Goals – a United Nations-crafted table of equality and environment goals that influence much of the curriculum in BFA – Fairfax and in the Franklin West Supervisory Union as a whole.

Works from BFA’s middle school students hang in an upstairs wing during the Fairfax school’s first ever K-12 art show. (Michael Frett, MESSENGER STAFF)

“Art is a different kind of makerspace,” said Marc Choiniere, BFA-Fairfax’s middle school art teacher. “It’s important to show that students can express themselves and solve problems at the same time.”

As an example, he pointed to a glass case on the wall, where several human-like statues were arranged in different excited poses. Those statues, he said, were the result of a “visual problem” students were asked to answer, challenging them to “make a sculpture that stands up” and has a “proportional, human figure.”

It was also a word prompt that inspired the “identity vessels” arranged on a nearby table.

According to high school art teacher Jennifer Hart, students were asked to try and “represent something about how they identify themselves” in a “personal exhibition” of sorts. The result was a gallery of names, places and languages represented by artifacts like a miniature swing or a retired baseball.

Leaned against the wall was an “identity tapestry,” where students and family were invited to tie strands of yarn between spokes labeled after the different identifiers. The “tapestry,” originally inspired by artist Mary Corey March, served as a bookending piece to the identity theme represented by the sculptures in the center of the room.

These works were, according to Hart, the results of a student-led, student-driven art room experienced at the high school level. “We use an overarching theme, like identity,” Hart said. “[But] they have an abundance of choices in what they make and how they make it.”

Other work wrapped around the periphery of the room, ranging from wildlife photography to sometimes abstract recreations of pop culture icons like Mickey Mouse and hip-hop musicians like Tyler the Creator.

The high school’s wing was curated entirely by its students, according to Hart.

“I feel like the parents in the community sometimes don’t understand exactly what happens in the art room,” Hart said. “But all this amazing stuff happens… and then to see it all together can really make an impact.”

“We want the community to know what we’re doing,” she added. “We get to showcase as a fine arts team… and I hope people come by and check it out.”

While its reception took place Tuesday after school, BFA-Fairfax’s inaugural art show will be displaying students’ work from May 6 to May 10.

In BFA-Fairfax’s high school art classes, students were asked to represent themselves through an “identity vessel.” Those vessels are displayed here during BFA-Fairfax’s inaugural K-12 art show. (Michael Frett, MESSENGER STAFF)

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