BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the annual Bridgewater-Raritan High School art show had to be canceled – but one student took it upon herself to make sure students could still show off their work.

BRHS rising senior Lucy Battafarano created a website for a virtual art show for grades five through 12. Art teachers worked with her to help make all those efforts come to fruition.

“We hope the BR community takes a moment to experience the artwork of our extraordinary students,” said BRHS art teacher Elizabeth Stutzman Perti, who worked directly with Battafarano to help move the program forward. “We have enjoyed guiding them to this stage on their artistic journey.”

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Teachers communicated with students and parents, and assisted students in uploading artwork, and also worked hard during the closures photographing student artwork to have images available for uploading.

Other teachers aiding the efforts were MaryKate Ambrose, Jason Draine, Mary Lynn Hawkinson, Shannon Manko, Sarah Nasson, Nicola Novajosky, Beth Olechnowicz, Joann Pellegrino, Joan Wagner, Joanna Wezyk and Nanette Younan.

Battafarano said her motivation to virtualize the art show began when the physical art show was canceled due to the pandemic. The show is usually held at the high school every spring, and there are hundreds of student artists invited to participate from grades kindergarten through 12.

“Teachers curate and exhibit over a thousand pieces of work produced by their students,” she said. “The event is large enough to fill a cafeteria, a gym and the hallways in between.”

For Battafarano, the cancellation was a major disappointment.

“I, like so many art students, really look forward to this event each year, not only for being selected to be able to have one of my pieces included, but also as a member of the community that gets to attend the exhibit and see all the amazing work from grades kindergarten through 12,” she said.

For seniors, Battafarano said, this is a way to showcase the best of their portfolios, and it is something students look forward to for years, leading up to senior year.

“Wanting to still make it special for our senior students, I dropped a 40-minute video onto the home page and provided a menu option where the community could watch a 1-minute video produced by the seniors themselves, where they shared their themes and inspiration behind their art,” she said.

The video was produced by BRTV.

Battafarano said that while her initial purpose was to save the show and benefit the students, after working with all the teachers who were involved, she was thrilled to be able to do this for them too.

“They are such a great group of people who truly care for their students,” she said.

Battafarano said she is grateful for the help of Stutzman in putting it together.

“Ms. Stutzman, like so many of the teachers in the creative arts department at BRHS share a tremendous passion for the work they do in developing and inspiring their students,” she said. “Ms. Stutzman supported me from day one and helped pave the way with the school district, and led the efforts of over a dozen teachers who participated, representing the various creative arts classes in grades five through 12.”

Battafarano also did some fundraising through a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the project and cover the costs of building the site and all the other work done.

“It’s easy to share a story for a great cause and hopefully inspire people to contribute, to be part of something great,” she said. “I was amazed by how generous and supportive people can be.”

The campaign has raised a little over $3,000 from the $5,000 goal.

“Although we didn’t hit our goal to cover costs, we came close, but it’s not too late,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to visit the virtual art show online, and if they like what they see, please make a contribution. No amount is too big or too small.”

Battafarano said she developed the concept for the website and designed the user experience, and, with the assistance of her father, hired a software developer, Ted Coyle.

“He did an amazing job, especially under such tight timelines,” she said. “We only had three weeks to get the software developed, another week to get all the students registered and upload their art work before the school year ended and we would lose everyone’s attention. There were definitely some late nights and weekends.”

In total, Battafarano said, they had over a dozen teachers participating, more than 400 students registering and uploading their artwork and close to 1,100 images of art work curated, including sketches, paintings, digital work, ceramics and other types of media.

“What I hope that people get out of this project is that no matter what life throws at us, we can be and are resilient,” she said. “We adapt and persevere, and most importantly, when we come together as a community, we can do amazing things.”

The site launched June 21, and is available for viewing for the foreseeable future.

The website is panthersartshow.com. Visit the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme/br-virtual-art-show.com.