Cristian Cruz, a senior at Marist High School, clicked the icon and the computer screen came to life with cartoon characters, animated images of his classmates for a film he made depicting a class trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Normally I don’t have a lot of patience for things, but when it comes to animation, I do,” he said.
Although an in-joke he took from the ribbing by his classmates, the images showed his ability to capture the essence of people he knows in cartoon.
Unlike many of the other students who took part in this year’s Marist Arts Festival, he did not hook up with the arts program as a sophomore, said Caroline John, chairperson of the arts department. Cruz joined the program as a junior and has produced remarkable art, even without the extra training.
John, who has a bachelor of arts from the College of New Jersey, has been one of the mainstays of the arts programs at Marist and one of the architects of the Arts Festivals since they started at the school nine years ago.
While Marist has provided space for displays of art, in the past these were usually for decorations for some other event. About nine 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.
A full spectrum of art
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.
These festivals usually feature four components including drama, music, art and dance under the direction of its arts, music and English staff – each of whom bring to the program a slightly different view and background.
Brother Bob Warren, who serves multiple roles in the arts and music programs, said students get the basics early on in order to build on them.
With a master of arts degree from the University of Dallas, Brother Bob sees himself as a tough teacher whose chore is to prepare students in every way possible to make their way in the larger world beyond the walls of the school.
“Students sign up for the arts program as sophomores where they get the basics,” Brother Bob said.
Most of the student artists are juniors and seniors, but there are some sophomores now.
“Normally I don’t have a lot of patience for things, but when it comes to animation, I do.” – Cristian Cruz
During the years, teachers like Brother Bob – who also teaches philosophy – try to instill in each student a deeper vision that allows them to look past the superficial, although he said most lessons are designed to prepare students for careers, and over the years, he’s had a number of success stories.
Touring the Marist High School gym a few hours prior to the April 20 festival, John said Cruz’s talents were unmistakable, even if he wasn’t in the program at the start. Last year, his work on developing art about superheroes was one of the highlights of the show. Indeed, the panels of still art displayed in the gym looked as if they had come straight out of a published graphic novel.
But it was Cruz’s animated short video that was expected to steal the show this year, character that move from the usual two dimensional cartoon world into a more three dimensional world using the images from the actual museum for background.
Already accepted into the School of Visual Art in New York City where he expects to start in September, Cruz would love to make a full scale animated film, but said that media is flush with potential jobs for someone who can work with animation.
“I know there are a lot of jobs out there,” he said.
Film making a significant element this year
Cruz, however, is not the only budding film maker at this year’s arts festival.
Last year, Joshua Loreto also presented a film from a recent trip to an art museum. This year, he’s expanded on these themes, becoming Cruz’s counterpart for documentary type film making.
Loreto, who has applied to a number of schools to continue his study, said he wants to study film making.
“I did a number of films covering events at school,” he said.
His work is a kind of retrospective of student life at Marist High.
Because video is playing a bigger part of the arts festival this year, John said, viewing booths were created so that people could look more closely at the presentations.
Although the school is seeing two of its most talented film makers graduating this year, others are rising through the ranks to take their place.
“We have four more coming up,” John said.
Video, of course, was only part of the overall festival, part of a massive show that filled nearly every corner of the gymnasium. Not all the work was created this year. Some were holdovers from last year, such as some of the superhero images. But many of were generated out of class work such as a series of graphic faces reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s work.
One group of work came out of a graphic art class.
“Ironically, many of the students picked food,” John said.
But the theme behind this year’s festival involved words and communication.
“Our theme is ‘Marist Speaks,’” John said, and this may explain the many works that incorporated words in their images.