By Mike Adams and Joseph Konig
An exhibition featuring work from Long Island high school students at Huntington’s Heckscher Museum of Art will finish its nearly month-long run Sunday, April 15.
The exhibit, titled “Long Island’s Best,” features 80 works of art from students in grades 9-12. This year’s pieces, displayed since March 17, were selected from 385 submissions from 62 high schools across Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The exhibit is the culmination of an annual program that invites high school students to the museum to learn about interpreting art. Student artists are asked to find art that inspired them and create an original piece based off that inspiration.
The student artwork ranges from paintings and sculptures to a pushpin Mona Lisa.
“I felt like no single person’s work looked like anybody else’s,” Casey Goldstein, a senior from Half Hollow Hills East High School, said. “We were all given the exact same museum for inspiration, yet we all took it in such different was and I found that very interesting.”
“Long Island’s Best” was started in 1996 as a way to help expose students to professional artwork.
“The program began because we have found over the years that arts budgets have been cut and it’s very important for us to give students the opportunity to be exposed to an art museum,” Joy Weiner, Heckscher Museum director of education and public programs, said. “It’s very often many students’ first opportunity to be in an art museum, to improve their visual literacy…and have confidence in their own artistic voice.”
Many of the exhibit’s pieces, like Estefanie Arrue’s third-place winning portrait of Malala Yousafzai, explored political and social themes.
“I decided to make the piece based on this 1950s Good Housekeeping news article I found online,” Arrue, a senior attending Hicksville High School, said. “Basically it was bullet points on advice for women about how to be a good housewife. So I decided to show how we’ve progressed as a society, and I decided to draw Malala because she’s helped women get higher in life.”
Goldstein’s work also touched on gender roles, specifically the interpretation of Tanzanian society she gained from staying in the country while on a National Geographic student photography exhibition. Goldstein arranged a collage of photos she took in Tanzania to look like a woman carrying a basket.
“The men were expected to take care of the animals while the women were expected to take care of the house, the food, the children,” Goldstein said. “I was actually more captivated by the role of the women, I thought it seemed like the women were really carrying the family.”
Given the rise of youth-led political campaigns such as #MeToo and #Enough, attendees were not surprised the student art tended to focus on political issues.
“I think young adults are more attuned to politics than older people may realize,” Cameron Hewes, an Illinois resident who visited the exhibition, said. “I think we all feel it.”