A week and a half before the start of the annual Marist High School Arts Festival, students were still working, filling the basement hall with pieces of cardboard, cutouts from old product labels, or whatever else they could get as material to make their art.
Called “Art Superheroes Metropolis,” the festival seems inspired by the monumental efforts of New York City’s Broadway to stage “Spiderman,” but without any of the disasters – although, thanks to the gallant efforts of students, the show will have its own skyline on which the emerging superheroes can make their stand.
“I want to become a cartoonist.” – Cristian Cruz
But others are pure inventions of the students, who will make their triumphant debut when the doors to the show open at 6:30 p.m. on April 15 in Marist High School’s gym.
Most of the student artists are juniors and seniors, but there are some sophomores.
One student painted a portrait of his fellow classmate using colored pushpins, based on a photograph he’d taken of his friend.
“He doesn’t know exactly what I’m doing,” Taylor Fdyfil said with something of a sly grin as he pushes the pin in along the hair line of a large portrait he had sketched out in charcoal pencil.
Students work in the hall and in the art room beyond it to get ready, each working on projects that reflect a personal vision or some idea that Carolynn John, chairperson of the Arts Department who has a bachelor of arts from The College of New Jersey, encouraged them to pursue. The works may offer their own unique perspective as well as odd assortments of found items that they can reconfigure into some new use.
Kendal Chambers made a lamp of action figures that include superheroes, villains, spaceships, motorcycles, and more, saying that his friend gave him the pieces.
Marist High School, which offers a Catholic-based program of education, is currently celebrating its 57th anniversary this year, having opened its original campus in 1954 on Eighth Street in Bayonne. In 1964, the school relocated to its current, more modern 35-classroom building on Kennedy Boulevard near 60th Street. For most of those years, it was an all boys’ school, something that changed in the 1990s. Most of its student population comes from Bayonne and Jersey City, although students from throughout Hudson County and Northern New Jersey attend.
While Marist has provided space for displays of art, in the past these were usually for decorations for some other event. About eight years ago, John, with the encouragement of then-Principal Brother Steve, began to host an art exhibit, a festival where students could show off their talents – including performance, multi-media, and more traditional arts.
However, a sampling of the creations being prepared for the show clearly hints that nothing in this show will be ordinary.
While many of the works on display do come out of art classes and other art and graphic design programs at the school, a number of students are working on this project on their own time.
Some of the performance pieces scheduled for the festival are in collaboration with the Visual and Performing Arts program of Jersey City.
A show case for artistic talent
Although arts programs have been on the increase over the last decade, the festival is relatively new, generated out of the need to showcase student talent for a larger audience, said John.
John, who was been at Marist since 1996, said the arts program has become a showcase for students with an interest in the arts.
Cristian Cruz will be creating a large comic strip, the panels of which will be featured at various places in the show, starting near the front to help draw people in. He and his friends are characters, and so are some of the superheroes, such as Eraser Man.
He is pictured as daydreaming in class, and this dream is realized as the panel progresses, revealing scenes in which the superheroes appear. His helpful friend at the helm, of course, hits him in the side of the head to wake him up.
“I want to become a cartoonist,” he said, although gauging from the panels he’s drawn so far, he already is a cartoonist.
Joshua Loreto brings a truly contemporary aspect to the festival as he edits one of his films that will be on display, from a recent trip to an art museum.
This is the first year Tyler Nguyen is at Marist, although his studies in art started when he still lived in Vietnam. His drawings of old cars and pickup trucks are draped over one of the tables.
Samantha Llanes quietly builds her art on a door.
“We just happened to have a door,” John said.
Llanes said this came out of a cross between Steam Punk Art and her wish to create a door to heaven. She said she started it in January.
Samantha Martinez worked with cut-out cardboard on the floor in the hall, where she endeavored to create something that had patterns and texture.
The event will cost $4 at the door and will offer a variety of inexpensive refreshments inside.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.