Young Artists featured at NJCU

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Astrella/ The group of students, listed below, with teachers from the Kearny High Art Department. The students who will have their work displayed are as follows: Brittany Calero, Cristian Vidreiro, Felipe Fagundes, Carmina Lasam, Edward Curtis, Kevin Zajac, Devayani Kumaran, Gabrilla Robles,Viktorrija Kulvicaite, Nicole Olivares, Mercedes Lois, and Damian Snider.


Anthony J. Machcinski

America has been called the land of opportunity, a place where people can make a name for themselves irrespective of their race, gender, or social status. Kearny High School is doing its part to keep that idea alive.

As part of the High School Art Exhibition, twelve Kearny High School art students were selected to have their work presented at New Jersey City University (NJCU).

“NJCU reached out to different high schools and I grabbed the opportunity,” said Supervisor of Art, Music and Media Kathleen Astrella. “It’s only going to help (the students) down the road.”

Two works each from different mediums including ceramic, photography, 2-D design, painting, drawing, and graphic arts will be featured at the gallery at NJCU.

The exhibition will afford students an opportunity to have their works viewed and appreciated – something that doesn’t happen often.

“I never really wanted to stand out,” senior Brittany Calero said. “I didn’t want to be a show off.”

“I didn’t really think I had the ability to do something like that, but when Mr. (Diogo) Neto told me, I was glad that he thought I had the ability to,” said sophomore Gabriella Robles.

This inspiration for art is something many of the children have had since they were young.

“Just from being a little kid, I used to doodle around,” said sophomore Kevin Zajac.

Photos courtesy of Kathleen Astrella


Photos courtesy of Kathleen Astrella/ Kearny High artists (Nicole Olivares (top) and Kevin Jazak) show their pieces at NJCU.


“I’ve always drawn since I was really young, so I was always interested in art,” junior Eddie Curtis added.

Sophomore Damien Swider also agreed with his fellow artists.

“When I first came to Kearny, I got an interest in drawing and I heard about the art programs and I told myself, ‘Why not?’” said Swider.

Kearny High maintains large art program that goes into great depth.

“I think here in Kearny it’s an amazing opportunity,” said Diogo Neto, the 2-D art teacher. “They have one art teacher in other schools and you never fully conquer anything. You’re never allowed to take those fundamentals further. In this school, you’re allowed to take a medium and explore deeper.”

This level of detail comes into play in the classroom. Even something as simple as a class project can become a great work.

“It was part of a project, so I decided to experiment with it,” said junior Felipe Fagundes, who created a detailed Spartan mask that will be on display.

The hard work that the students put into making such detailed pieces doesn’t go unnoticed by their teachers, whose job it is to decide which students will be able to go to NJCU.

“It’s difficult to select two pieces,” Gary DiVincenzo, photography teacher and Kearny High alum said. “If you came down to my studio, I had about 1,000 to select from. The kids get anxious who I’ll pick and it was difficult.”

“I have a high standard for their work and when I saw work that exceeded it, I chose it,” Chris McShane, ceramics teacher and fellow Kearny High alum said. “I’m happy about my students work.”

Even though it is the students’ work on display, the hard work and influence of those teachers doesn’t go unnoticed.

“My art teacher has always been supporting me a lot,” said junior Nicole Olavares. “He’s the one who put me in the AP art class where I drew the perspective drawing for the exhibition.”

“ I thought the teachers did an excellent job,” said Astrella. “I can’t say enough about them. They’re very talented. They engage very well with the students and they are very much into differentiated education.”

Through the lessons taught by these teachers, several students have transformed their passion for art into careers.

“I want to go to a college that has art and literature,” said junior Nicole Olavares. “I want to make Manga in Japan.”

“I want to go to college and major in graphic art and business,” said junior Cristian Vidreiro. “I’m looking forward to being a graphic designer and making ads on the computer.”

The amount of passion expressed by all the children is a warming thing for Astrella. “It’s like seeing a kid in a candy store,” Astrella said in describing the feeling students have when they see their work on the gallery wall.“They walk in a room and their artwork is on the gallery wall. It’s like being a little kid on Christmas morning. To me, when you go through life and you get that appreciation, it gives you the energy to want to do better.”

While appreciation is always wonderful, having fun is a worthy goal too.

“Every year I get involved in something different,” said Senior Mercedes Lois, who hopes to go into the physical therapy field. “(Art) is something I enjoy doing, and I got pretty far with it.”

The High School Art Exhibition is currently open at the NJCU Visual Arts Gallery, 100 Culver Ave., Jersey City.

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