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WD Library Gallery Celebrates Youth Art Month

Running until March 27, the art gallery features the works of approximately 400 West Deptford elementary students.

Ever wondered what Starry Night would look like if Vincent van Gogh had painted it in modern times? For some West Deptford elementary students, their renditions of the artist's most famous work will be one of the many exhibits featured in the West Deptford Free Public Library.

Between elementary art teachers Gina Hicks and Kate Mathiesen, roughly 400 elementary students are featured in this year’s exhibit for Youth Art Month. After spending all morning and most of the afternoon hanging every piece of artwork, last Friday, the exhibit will remain in the library until March 27.

“This is our celebration,” says Hicks. “This is what we do to bring attention to the arts.”

An annual tradition that predates both Hicks and Mathiesen’s tenure in the West Deptford School District, the art gallery features work from Red Bank, Green-Fields and Oakview Elementary students, ranging from kindergarten to fourth grade.

Hicks explains that both she and Mathiesen start selecting artwork as early as September, holding onto most of the students' artwork, so they can select pieces to hang come March. Mathiesen says it’s particularly difficult to not spill the beans about the art gallery when students ask for their art projects back prior to the exhibit.

While the gallery is open to the public for the month, Hicks and Mathiesen will host a special night for the parents of the select students featured in the gallery. Only able to select pieces from a sample of students, they explain that a letter is sent home to the families of each young artist featured in the gallery.

On March 6, the parents of those students are invited to the library for a special meet-the-artist night. There are no awards, but Hicks says it’s a time for the parents and students to meet and take pictures.

“We try to make a nice night of it,” says Hicks.

The gallery has no central theme, yet all artwork is a product of assignments from both Hicks and Mathiesen. While Hicks says a majority of  her students projects centered around basic artistic elements, a majority of Mathiesen's students’ work is multicultural.

“We inspire each other,” says Mathiesen in regard to her collaboration with Hicks.

Both admit most idea swapping occurs during the construction of the gallery, when they are able to see each other’s projects stretched out across the walls. However, they are not the only ones who look forward to the annual gallery.

Hicks says that the library staff is always thrilled to see the exhibit go up. Throughout the day, they explained that the staff continuously checked in, eager to get a sneak peek at the work of the many young artists.   

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