Talent + Resources + Expertise = Rewarding DHHS Arts Program

Posted Sunday May 29, 2016 by admin

Talent + Resources + Expertise = Rewarding DHHS Arts Program
By Elizabth DePierro; Photos  courtesy of Suzanne Gaskell

With the Daniel Hand High School Arts Program 2015–16 academic year entering its closing days, it’s time to celebrate  a year of great opportunity, growth and accomplishment.

What makes the program so strong?  You could ask any of the 16 graduating seniors with a concentration in the arts.  They all concur that the combination of deeply committed and skilled teachers, eager and compatible students, relevant curriculum, and ample materials makes it happen.

Art teachers Robert del Russo and Suzanne Gaskell with Genevieve Geller

Art teachers Robert del Russo and Suzanne Gaskell with Genevieve Geller.

The Artist Education Fund was conceived by a Daniel Hand graduate to ensure that resources, supplies, and experiences would be available to all high school students above and beyond what is supported through the school budget. The fund made available to educators and their students additional opportunities that include guest artists and workshops offered both in and outside the Hand community to collaborate and introduce new ideas and techniques.

The Madison Foundation (TMF) established The Artist Education Fund with an initial large contribution, a matched grant from The Guilford Savings Bank, and individual directed donations through TMF to support the fund’s vision for all students for years to come!

What a  team! The DHHS Art Department Staff, under the direction of department head Bill Sommer, offers a diverse and fluid curriculum offering drawing, painting, printmaking, clay/ceramics, photography, animation, digital production, and film. Suzanne Gaskell, Robert Del Russo, Greg Gallo and  shared MPS staff Mary Smith and Claire Stone provide inspirational and skilled instruction to Hand students.

Art teacher Robert Del Russo with Tessa Farnham.

Art teacher Robert Del Russo with Tessa Farnham.

The arts staff, using funds from the Artist Education  Fund, was able to purchase 26 invaluable art text books, new printmaking supplies, and anatomical models for studio art classes.   Additionally, resources from the AEF provided for museum passes, and enabled students from the advanced level courses to augment their classroom instruction with life drawing and painting classes at Lyme Academy; the AEF absorbed the bulk of tuition and material fees. Both students and their instructors – who in fact are forever students themselves, were able to enjoy this educational and inspirational opportunity.

In addition to classroom and studio education, two exciting Guest Artist Programs took place this year, each in an open house and artist demonstration format. The initial guest artist was Davis Brown, renowned for his talents and visual record installations. In a second, even larger affair, DHHS and the community welcomed noted Vermont painter and Lyme Academy graduate Hollis Dunlap, who demonstrated the painting process in the library for all students to observe.  It was great exposure and was enjoyed by veteran artists as well as many students unfamiliar with the artistic process.

Another great opportunity for DHHS Artists was participation in the Shoreline Arts Alliance’s Future Choices Show at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, in which students experienced being juried by experts in the arts, and were privileged to exhibit in a professional gallery setting.  Students from the 24-town Shoreline region participated. The per student participation fee was absorbed by the Arts Education Fund to ensure all students are able to participate. A record number of DHHS Students (nearly 80) submitted works, and of those, 60 works were accepted into the show! DHHS is brimming with talent and in fact 13 DHHS students received awards.

 Linsie Carcia, won the award for Best Print.

Linsie Carcia, won the award for Best Print.

Congratulations to the 2016 Future Choices Award winners, who by category were:  Ceramics: First Place: Emma Valdez; Mixed Media: First Place: Maxwell Finke, Second Place: Jane McManus;  Painting: Honorable Mention: Jane McManus;  Pastel: Second Place: Taylor Day;  Photography:  First Place: Drew Montgomery, Honorable Mention:  Coco Charles, and Ella Piekar;  Prints: Third Place: Nicole Kronauer, Mention: Tessa Farnham;  Sculpture:  Third Place: Kasia Zanetske;  Video: Second Place: Jack Brady , Third Place: Will Schultz,  and Merit Scholarships:  Genevieve Geller.

​The Future Choices was a great kickoff to a busy spring season, in April, the Madison Public Schools District Art Show and Open House with student art demonstrations was held at Hand which showcased pieces from K-12.  It was a great success!

This May, the Daniel Hand High School Annual Art Show was opened, and students and faculty are quite proud!  The student works that represent comprehensive portfolios, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and short creative films is a clear reflection of talent, endless potential, and love of the arts.

DHHS Annual Art Show Awards presented to seniors include:

Genevieve Geller – Recipient of  Best in Show.  Genevieve, say her teachers, is not only sweet and unassuming, but terrifically talented and deeply involved in the school community, including show choir and costume design. Genevieve will be the recipient of the Excellence in Art Award at the Senior Awards night.

Shae Galluzzi – First Place, Portfolio. Shae possess unmatched portrait talents, and her teachers note that she is perhaps the most outstanding portrait artist that DHHS has ever seen.

Tessa Farnham – Second Place, Portfolio, and and other honors, most notably her nomination by the art department for Outstanding Visual Artist to the Connecticut Association of Schools, in which each academic year Connecticut school nominate a singularly accomplished visual artist.  Tessa gives selflessly of her artistic talents to the school community, especially the arts and theater cast and crew, including designing posters and promotional materials.

James Rinere – Third Place, Portfolio, and he just recently he received First Place in the Southern Connecticut Conference of Schools — a great honor! From an enormous pool of museum-quality works, James took first place for his traditional classic charcoal composition. His teachers marvel at his technique, understanding of perspective of space and angle, and infinite capacity. James will receive the Excellence in Arts Award at the senior awards night. Suzanne Gaskell and Robert Del Russo, teachers of AP Arts, explained that his doodles themselves are often artwork worth saving!

DHHS students received awards at the Lyme Academy.

DHHS students (left to right) Max Finke, Shea Galluzzi, Alexis Blumenthal,
and Portia Blanchard at the Lyme Academy.

Jane McManus – who is just completing her junior year is the only underclassman to complete the AP studio course.  She won first place for her junior portfolio in the DHHS show and has a great future in the arts.

There are so many spectacular artists, and their works are not to be missed.  This year with some seed money from the Artist Education Fund, the Art department will be creating the first of an annual calendar showcasing works from the senior class. The 2017 Calendar, featuring the works of 2015-2016 seniors, will be available later this summer.  It will be sold on campus as well as through local retail stores, with proceeds benefitting the Daniel Hand Arts Education Fund.

You can contribute to the Arts Education Fund here, call 203-245-2796, or mail The Madison Foundation / Artist Education Fund, P.O. Box 446, Madison, CT 06443.

For direct contact with the faculty, please email  Suzanne Gaskell at DHHS or Bill Sommer.

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