A sixth-grade student crossed the threshold of Fowler-Kellogg Art Center last week and looked at the displayed pieces with awe.
“This is really cool,” he said.
The show in Fowler-Kellogg, the 60th Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art: 60 Works Celebrating 60 Years, opened to the public Sunday.
On June 19, fifth- and sixth-grade classes from Clymer Central School visited the Melvin Johnson Sculpture Garden and two of the four new exhibits opening the season for Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution. Though this was the first time students from Clymer got to preview VACI’s galleries, it was the third consecutive year that VACI has invited local schools. The field trips are made possible thanks to the support of Arnold and Jill Bellowe, Gloria Plevin, and the Mark and Patricia Suwyn Family Fund.
According to Judy Barie, Susan and Jack Turben Director of Galleries, the timing can be difficult to coordinate, as many schools are already out for the summer by the time the exhibits are set up. Even so, with school groups, homeschooled students and even a Boy Scout troop visiting over the course of four days, close to 300 students toured the galleries this pre-season, about twice as many students as last year.
Barie said that inviting students to experience VACI’s exhibitions felt like a natural thing to do, especially as many have probably never been to an art gallery before. The tours also make for great end-of-the-year field trips.
A group of fifth-graders had a barrage of responses to the tour: “Fun!” “Awesome!” “Interesting!”
“I like the chicken,” said Connor Magnes, age 10, referring to a clay sculpture in the contemporary show, “Rooster Stele,” by Chuck Johnson.
Two girls preferred a painting on display in the “Resting Place: The American Landscape” show, which opened Sunday in Strohl Art Center.
“In Other Words,” a watercolor by Nicole Renee Ryan, looks like “rainbow sherbert clouds,” according to Erin Murphy, age 11.
Olivia Maleski, age 10, agreed that the painting was her favorite of the works they’d seen that morning.
“It’s just so colorful and bright,” she said.
After Barie led students through “Resting Place,” they had a chance to draw their own landscapes using colored pencils. Their artworks included rollings hills, sunsets, trees, lakeviews — and a few extreme climates: a desert, complete with cacti and some dehydrated cowboys, and a volcanic area made apparent by lava that flowed across the page.
Ashley Myers, a gallery assistant, said having children tour the exhibitions was a unique experience, as most visitors over the summer will be adults.
“Kids have more imagination,” she said.
Barie said children are more curious about art and more inventive in their interpretations.
“I think they almost see more than adults,” she said.