WEST ORANGE, NJ - Two West Orange High School students were honored this month when their artwork was selected for awards at the Art Start Competition held at William Paterson University. Senior Taylor Lanzet took Best in Mix Media for her windmill sculpture using clay, paper, collage, yarn, graffiti and working compact florescent light bulb while senior Anthony Alfonso won honorable mention in ceramics for his large vessel intricately carved with detailed depictions of owls perched on trees. The two were selected from among 100 participants from 17 high schools across New Jersey.
“They were all very pleased,” West Orange art teacher Jamie Podhurst said of her student, Taylor Lanzet, and Lanzet's family who were present at the awards ceremony. Fellow art teacher April Clark noted her student, Anthony Alfonso, an AP art student who only started taking ceramics this year was “thrilled.”
The show was held in the Power Art Gallery on campus and was juried by faculty members of the University’s Art Department. They chose the best work from each of several categories as well as two works for honorable mention in each category along with a partial talent scholarship and acceptance to the BFA program awarded to one very, talented student.
“It was a very professional show,” said Clark, who entered the students in the show. “The space itself was beautiful,” she said, noting on the day of the award ceremony students from the University’s Jazz Studies program provided live music. The school also provided studio tours for students interested in attending the university.
The ceremony was held on February 5thfor work submitted for categories ranging from Best in Painting to Best in Pastels to Best in Photography. Each school could enter up to six works by high school juniors and seniors along with one art piece from the instructor. Clark, who has worked in the district for 12 years, entered five of her students’ works along with the mix media piece by Podhurst’s student.
“I think it reflects well on the Art Department and on the school that our students can compete at this level,” said Podhurst, who has been teaching art for 14 years, seven of them at West Orange High School. “And it’s nice that our students are honored in the community in this way.”
The works submitted were ones the students had been working on for the school’s regular curriculum. Lanzet’s mix media piece was actually for an architectural project Podhurst had assigned. “The students could interpret it in various ways,” Podhurst said, adding, “she took it in an environmental direction. Taylor is a Renaissance girl. She is interested in many, many things and is very talented in many areas.”
Podhurst said Lanzet is an environment activist and that showed in her work. “She spoke visually to everyone at William Paterson through a sculpture.”
While not every art student may be able to accomplish that, Clark pointed out the school holds an annual art show in early June for which all art students are eligible.
“Teachers typically choose the work,” said Clark. “We try to choose a good representation of the program. For example, I try to put in some pottery as well as sculptures and mixed media.”
Students at all levels have the opportunity to be in the show while every AP art student is honored with his or her own display case. The shows are juried by working artists and art teachers.
“It’s a nice evening when students come and bring their parents, and anyone from the community is welcome to come and view the work,” said Clark.
In addition to the school’s art show, residents can also see students’ works around town. “We’ve displayed work as a school at locations such as Essex Green and at the Library in West Orange,” Clark said.
Podhurst noted the benefits of public displays and competitions. “We are starting to enter more competitions because we see how good it is for the students,” She added, “It’s a win-win for our school and the students and the arts.”