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Gowanda to host virtual art show

Submitted Photo Gowanda High School Art Teacher Heather Rydzik celebrates school pride as she prepares for the district art show next month.

GOWANDA — Even when the Gowanda Central School Art Department learned that all in-person events would be canceled for the year, they never once considered canceling the beloved K-12 District Art Show. In fact, art teachers Nick Gallardo, Casey Mohr, Heather Rydzik and Charles Wahl have been meeting remotely via Zoom every week since mid March to plan a virtual art show to celebrate and share students’ creativity. Although this year’s art show won’t take place at the Gowanda Hollywood Theater as in years past, this virtual format invites an even larger audience and will result in a finished piece that can be shared, saved and viewed for many, many years to come. In fact, a virtual version of the art show will accompany the live event every year from now on!

Rydzik told the OBSERVER that the idea for a virtual art show grew out of an already-existing project. “The Advanced Placement art students have been creating virtual art show videos to showcase their college board portfolios during Class Nights since 2017,” she explained. “We knew it was possible, and the art department didn’t hesitate to agree to take on the challenge of creating a virtual show that would include work from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

The art department recently sent paper invites to all elementary students and digital invites to middle and high school students. Additionally, a call for artwork was posted on the district’s Facebook page. Students or their parents can email photos of their creations to their respective building’s art teacher(s) by Friday. The invitations also promoted the Gowanda Rocks Community Path Project by encouraging students to paint a rock and drop it off at the middle school. All rocks collected by June 12 will be assembled in a colorful path to be installed in the community later this year.

With the help of Ed Bugenhagen and Candy Philips, district technology integrators, the art teachers will be using Google Slides to create the content for the show that will be converted to several formats that can be viewed on computers, as well as mobile devices.

“One version of this show will allow viewers to interact with the show by clicking links to specific sections or grade levels,” said Rydzik. “The other will run like a movie of all the images.” On Wednesday, June 10, the art department will debut both versions of the virtual show by posting them on Gowanda Central School’s Facebook page and the art department’s Instagram account (@GowandaArt) and in Schoology.

Rydzik emphasized the importance of maintaining the annual tradition, even though the in-person event is canceled. “We believe in authentic assessment!” she said. “Artists don’t create art because their teacher tells them to. Artists create work because they love the process, to achieve a personal goal, to sell, to communicate their ideas to an audience, and/or for gallery shows.”

Rydzik said the art department teaches students to think of themselves as artists, not just students. “We encourage our students to work on their creations until they are proud of their work — not when the teacher says it’s done,” she explained. “The district art show is our main public audience and celebration of the students’ hard work. We are so proud of our student artists and canceling that celebration is just not an option in our minds!”

The art department has been thrilled with the submissions they’ve already received, as students have been continuing to create during their home-learning experience. In addition to working in the Gowanda Central School art journals that were sent home, students have been engaging in other creative activities, like cake decorating and sidewalk chalk art. The art show will include these recent submissions, as well as work that was completed in school before the district closed in March.

Significant benefit of the virtual format are its versatility and permanency, which are some of the reasons why it will accompany future live art shows at the Hollywood Theater. “Students can share the show with family and friends who can’t attend the live event because of work, illness, distance and other reasons,” said Rydzik.

For questions or art submissions, email msrydzik@gcslearn.org.

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