Arts & Entertainment

Roxbury High School Hosts artROX Workshop

artROX Artist Panel: Ian Ferguson, Sarah Potter, and Lala Abaddon Credits: Roxbury High School
artROX Logo Credits: Roxbury High School
artROX Workshop Group Photo Credits: Roxbury High School
artROX Workshop Credits: Roxbury High School
Ian Ferguson on Collaborative Drawing Credits: Roxbury High School
Lala Abaddon surrounded by Ian Ferguson, Renee Zengel, and Sarah Potter as students work on weaves Credits: Roxbury High School
Lala Abaddon, Ian Ferguson, and Sarah Potter in front of Ian’s mural at RHS Credits: Roxbury High School
RHS Art Teacher, Nancy Valenta works with students on collaborative drawings Credits: Roxbury High School
Photo Session from Sarah Potter with Colors Credits: Roxbury High School
RHS Art Staff and Artists (left to right): Nancy Valenta, Isabel Speronza, Renee Zengel, Ian Ferguson, Scott Schilling, Lisa Gurzo, Monica Roman; (kneeling) Lala Abaddon and Sarah Potter Credits: Roxbury High School
Sarah Potter Explains Color Magic Credits: Roxbury High School
Students work on collaborative drawings Credits: Roxbury High School

ROXBURY, NJ - Students from Roxbury High School and three area schools had the opportunity to experience art outside of their everyday classroom with an artROX workshop on Oct. 18. The students met artists and participated in workshops to increase their knowledge and expand their network by working with students from other schools.

Roxbury High School hosted Wallkill Valley Regional High School, High Point Regional High School and Paramus High School with a day jammed packed with art related information.

As students, teachers and artists entered the auditorium for the artist panel discussion, they were each given an artROX bag with the artROX logo on it. Inside was the schedule for the day, brief bios on each of the artists, art school information, a raffle ticket and an artROX logo sticker that was color coded for the students to wear as part of the event to break up into smaller groups.

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The panel featured the last two artists-in-residence Roxbury has hosted: Ian Ferguson and Lala Abaddon. The third member of the panel was Sarah Potter, Abaddon’s friend and curator.

Roxbury High School Visual Arts Lead and Art Teacher Renee Zengel explained that Potter’s first introduction to Roxbury High School was from Abaddon. “Sarah attended last year’s Festival of the Arts to see the installation Lala made with the students," she said. "She fell in love with our visual arts program and expressed interest in participating in the event.”

Zengel went on to say, “I knew how much Lala and Ian loved working with the students and felt so much positive energy from their residencies. I presented them with the concept behind artROX workshop and they immediately wanted to participate.”

All three were open and honest in their panel discussion with the students. Each shared how they first got started, how they all met each other, the self-doubts they experienced and how they wish to see the art world change.

“They enjoyed the connections with the students and by sharing the stories about their lives, how they started in art, how they got where they are today, what they love and hate about the art world, and what they hope to do in the future in art," Zengel said. "The artists hoped to inspire the students that they remember to be themselves.”

After an hour-long discussion and Q&A session, the 60 students and teachers were broken into groups based on their color logo sticker.

“The goal of splitting all of the students into random groups was to start networking with others outside of whom you see every day. Lala, Ian, and Sarah all work on their own things, but they are a strong network that support each other artistically through concepts and gallery shows. Having the support of people you can trust is invaluable in the art world,” shared Zengel.

Participants not only learned from the artists but also received insight from an art school. The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art had four representatives which included current and past students. They spoke about the school and shared a short video. The Kubert School is committed to giving an exceptional education to the hopeful artist that can last a lifetime.

Zengel shared that it was interesting to note that three of the four were from out of state and how they came here specifically for that school.

After talking about the school, the representatives did a drawing activity with the students. They had handouts with steps for developing a comic book character and the reps walked around assisting students while one of them drew on a drawing board so the students could watch and follow along.

Following the Kubert School workshop, the students had individual sessions with each of the artists featuring some of their specialties.

Abaddon’s workshop featured her weaving techniques. Her background of woven work integrates many components in her process capturing her unique images multiple times through a repetitive sequence of traditional analog photographic methods, then arranging the large format prints into precise and deliberate pairings.

She shared with the students a website for weaving patterns that she utilized a lot in her early works before she started designing her own patterns. Students cut paper strips in different colors and/or patterns to be used to create their own weaved design.

Abaddon continues to intricately and painstakingly hand cut each print into hundreds of strips and then hand-weaves the prints with undulating and complicated patterns designed to convey a specific feeling, eventually leaving the viewer with the image within images and compelling them to experience alternate realities or states of being.

Her process can take weeks depending on the complexity of the images and weave structures, many times being mistaken for digital manipulation. The discovery of its true nature by the viewer is integral to the understanding of her process and purpose, to disrupt order, reconstruct historical notions of photography and weaving, and challenge what it means to create something solely for the purpose of creation.

Potter’s workshop followed entailing color magic and a color aura photo session. She shared a presentation about the history of various colors, “how we originally cultivated the colors, their role in our lives, and how they make us feel.”

After that, there was photography session with four studio lights covered in different color cellophane, red, blue, yellow, and green. She asked the students to sit in the color they felt like or wanted to feel like today. All students were photographed with their phones while they sat in the color they felt with the assistance of the teaching staff.

Dubbed “The Good Witch of the Art World,” Potter possesses a unique approach and philosophy to her work by intuitively assisting both new and seasoned collectors to connect with artwork to inspire their minds and nourish their spirits.

Sarah is the founder and owner of SP Projects, an independent art advisory and consulting business based in New York. With more than a decade of experience in the fine art world, Sarah has placed an emphasis on curating private and corporate collections with artwork that is aesthetically satisfying and a good financial investment.

The last workshop of the day was by Ian Ferguson, the latest artist-in-residence who helped the students of Roxbury create a mural in the main lobby at Roxbury High School that told part of the story of Roxbury. This mural was completed earlier in October.

Ian’s workshop covered collaborative drawing. He had every student start with their own paper. He instructed everyone that they would be a drawing a collaborative autumn inspired avatar. Everyone started with what would be a head that was representative of something they identified with at this time of the year. After that, he had everyone switch papers to draw the next body part, and so on. The person with the paper last kept the drawing.

As a contemporary artist, illustrator, and designer, Ian is inspired by life experiences and consciousness. He thoughtfully details illustrative style that evokes a sense of contemplative meaning in each piece. Using his characters and subjects as conduits for storytelling, Ian is able to deploy his thoughts and ideas through them. The attention to detail and meticulous line work in his drawings reflects his patience and passion for his work.

Raffles and wrap up ended the day. One of the three raffles was won by RHS junior, James Sullivan. Each of the bags raffled off contained art supplies which will definitely go to good use among these budding artists.

“I hope that every student took something away that will inspire their art in some way. Whether it is directly shown in their next piece or helped to make a decision about their art future,” shared Zengel.

Feedback cards received at the end were all positive with some students already listing specific things that they are planning to use for their own work.

Others shared how they loved hearing the artists talk about who they are and how they are professional artists while others wrote about what an amazing experience this was overall.

Zengel added, “Being able to meet the artist, curator, and art school representatives, these students received invaluable information from so many aspects of what they spend so much of their time committed too. It helps to make them realize their future.”


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