Brad Pitt and Vincent Van Gogh in North Bergen
Landscapes, abstracts, and celebrity portraits mark student art show
by Joseph Passantino
Reporter staff writer
Jun 09, 2013 | 5787 views | 0 0 comments | 187 187 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FEEDING TIME – Alexander Gonzalez, 7, is pictured beneath his creation of a shark (center, top).
view slideshow (10 images)

Five hundred budding Picassos showcased their artistic talents at the first-ever student art show at the Kennedy School in North Bergen on May 29.

The two-hour exhibition included drawings, paintings, sculptures, and bracelets; pieces in two and three dimensions. Exhibited works included everything from landscapes to celebrity portraits to abstract art.

Melissa Dargan Heintjes, art teacher at the John F. Kennedy Grammar School on 11th Street in the township, along with the Kennedy Teachers Organization, organized the show.

“We thought, ‘All year we make art, why not do a little fundraising for the school,’ ” Heintjes said. “Usually the art the students create is sent home with them, but with this art show, the school could showcase their talent.”

There were multiple creations of pop icons Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennon – but no subject was more popular than a hip Cuban musician from South Florida whose given name is Armando Pérez.

“They all love Pitbull,” Dargan Heintjes said. “So they all did him.”

President Barack Obama was represented too, about a dozen times and in as many variations. In a testament to how much influence social media now has in America, there were even several portraits of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.

Unlike your prototype art sales, everyone entering the school could leave with a treasure, with prices ranging from only $1 to $6.

And while fundraising was a benefit of the event, it was held for a more altruistic reason: to make students believe in themselves.


“We thought, ‘All year we make art. Why not do a little fundraising for the school?’ ” – Melissa Dargan Heintjes


“Kids that never knew they could paint started painting in art class,” Dargan Heintjes said. “They gained confidence.”

Every student in the school, all 500 of them from grades 1 through 8, were asked to participate, and Dargan Heintjes believes they had 100-percent participation.

“We tried to get one piece from each kid,” she said, and some were at least part of “one of the many collaborative efforts.”

Dargan Heintjes said Kennedy had been working on the art show since the school year began in September. The pieces were stored in the school’s large art laboratory as they were created.

The students

The young artists emulated the masters of the field, including Robert Rauschenberg, Leonardo da Vinci, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, and Henri Matisse. Even the influences of ‘60s artist Andy Warhol and Japanese painter/print maker Katsushika Hokusai were evident.

Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” was redone, with swirling clouds and stars ablaze, but with a new twist – a police helicopter added in the sky.

Seventh grader Alice Maldonado, 12, also drew Starry Night, because of her liking of its rich background.

“I tried to teach the kids a little history,” Dargan Heintjes said. So, many historical figures and time periods were represented, including Egyptian and Greek renderings.

Eighth grader Amberly Rodriguez, 14, replicated a Matisse drawing.

“I always liked to draw since I was little,” she said.

Heintjes spurred her to be more serious about art. Now she takes her time and does her artwork more slowly, paying more attention to detail, she said.

Seven-year-old Alexander Gonzalez’s drawing of a gray shark on the prowl was snapped up by Kennedy School teacher Chris Cintron. The parents could not have been prouder of their son.

“In the house, that’s what he likes to do – draw, draw, and draw,” said mom Patricia Gonzalez.

Using pen, not pencil, Alexander started at only one and half years old, said father Walter Gonzalez. “Whatever interested him, he started drawing.”

The show raised more than $500, which will go right back to the students in the forms of additional art supplies, ice cream, and pizza parties.

School pride

Principal Michael Guasconi beamed as he saw art lovers come through the school’s doors.

“We think it’s great,” Guasconi said of the show, which had been planned over two years.

While not every student can be an honors level achiever, Guasconi said, each has unique skills, and the art show reinforced that.

“They all have a niche,” he said. “Some are musically talented, some are artistically. So we’re happy to put their works on display and give them their moment in the sun.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet