BELFAST — It was a packed house for the fourth annual Waterfall Arts Young Artists Takeover, which held its opening Friday, March 1.
The event saw three floors of the building transformed into makeshift art museums, with artwork of all levels, mediums, techniques, and topics filling every single wall. There were also sculptural and other 3D art pieces on display, all being looked over by the hundreds who attended the opening night.
The artists, who were identified by nametags at the event, range in age from kindergarten students through high school. They were given simple instructions to “choose their masterpiece,” according to information at the event.
“The artwork you will see in this show is produced not only from the skills and creativity of the artists themselves but also by the adults in the community who teach, encourage, and provide time, space, and materials to do so. As you take in the enormous amount of imaginative work, be reminded of the power of art and how our community benefits from supporting young people and their endeavors,” a flyer read.
With over 300 pieces of art in the show this year, compared to last year’s 200 entries, there was no shortage of variety, with one young artist turning to a favorite cartoon for inspiration. Amelia Seekins, who attends Searsport Elementary School, said she knew right away that she wanted to be a part of the art show when asked by her teacher Miss Harris. After deciding on pop art Amelia chose Spongebob and the other residents of Bikini Bottom as her muses.
“Me and my friend both did Spongebob and she has three ‘how to draw’ books, so we took those books and we just looked [and chose shapes] based on characters,” she said. Amelia said the art took days to finish. “I did a lot on it… I’m very good at bubble letters,” she said, pointing proudly to her Spongebob scene.
One young artist with art featured at the event was honored by receiving the first ever Ascending Artist Award from Bridget Matros, Youth and Family Outreach Coordinator, at a ceremony that took place later in the event. Pia Gibson, a sophomore at Islesboro Central School and the recipient of the award, works in graphite and was a member of Waterfall Arts Bridge program, which is an after-school arts programs for area kids run by Matros.
Other youth and outreach programs available at Waterfall Arts include Bridge Jr. and the Teen Art Studio.
Though Gibson is no longer in the program, she and Matros have kept in contact via social media, where Gibson’s increasingly skilled work can be seen.
“Pia used to be a student of mind at Cornerspring Montessori and she was in Bridge, and we’ve just stayed in touch, and I was just really loving that she kept working on these graphite drawings,” Matros said. “I always want to commend people just for still doing it, you know, I mean a lot of kids just lose interest or get into something else,” she said of her inspiration to create the award.
Matros said another part of creating the award was to show her current Bridge students what can come from hard work and dedication.
“I just want my current Bridge kids to have an example for kids that continue even after Bridge to work and work and work and work, because when they see Pia’s work upon the wall, they’re going to make the connection that if they don’t keep practicing they’re not going to get that. If they do keep practicing, and I know you draw all the time,” she said glancing at Gibson, “they can achieve their goals.”
Gibson said she first became interested in photorealism, her chosen focus, in fifth grade, though she wouldn’t create a piece she deemed photorealistic until 2017.
“I think my first drawing that I was proud of was, it’s actually out there, it’s a portrait....that I did in 2017.”
Though she said she doesn’t time herself, she estimates her pieces take roughly eight to 10 hours to complete.
As for the future, Gibson said she’s not sure about pursuing art professionally, but “would like to continue to do it for recreational purposes.”
Asked if she had any words for kids just starting out on their artistic endeavors, Gibson had this to say:
“I think just keep working at it, it definitely doesn’t happen immediately, but I find a lot of joy in just....even if I”m not happy with the end product I just really like working on the process.”
While Gibson’s masterpieces were easy to locate, that wasn’t the case with all of the artists on display.
“It’s really funny cause some kids don’t remember what they’re artwork looks like because they did it at the beginning of the year, so there are really stressed out young artists saying ‘mine isn’t here,’ because they don’t remember,” Matros said laughing.
When it came time for Gibson to be presented with her award, the chosen classroom quickly filled with teachers, students, and some of the many people who attended.
In addition to Gibson’s award, a number of area teachers were also presented with certificates and memberships to Waterfall Arts, including teachers from Belfast, Islesboro, Thorndike, and Searsport, with each receiving a round of applause from the crowded room.
“We’re so glad to have these people in our school district,” Matros said.
“This is the first year I’m giving something called the Ascending Artists Award….so this year, the Ascending Artists Award, for the first time ever, is going to a former student and friend of mine named Pia Gibson,” Matros said before Gibson joined her at the podium.
“Waterfall Arts is proud to present the Ascending Artist Award to Pia Gibson, an alumnus of Waterfall Arts youth programs, exhibiting outstanding character, artistic vision, and commitment to her craft, and hopefully you have seen her work, just outside the door,” Matros said.
“Pia has lots of choices, I don’t know what direction she’s going to go in, [doesn’t] matter, her art is outstanding and her commitment... all of the young artists here, I don’t want to hear you say things like, ‘oh she’s really talented,’ she is, but also she just works super duper hard. So keep working, keep drawing. Some of you are still doing stick figures and you just want to stab yourself with your pencil, but you’ve got to keep going, push past it, my friends.’
The Young Artists Gallery Takeover will remain at Waterfall Arts through March 29.
Waterfall Arts was founded in 2000 as the Arts Center at Kingdom Falls repurposing the Anderson Elementary School building and moving to Belfast in 2005, according to the Waterfall Arts’ website, which also notes:
“Today, Waterfall Arts is a vibrant, nonprofit, community art venue committed to its mission “to create community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts.”
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org