Garrison Art Center's Summer Art Institute Showcases the Talents of Teen-Agers

By Alison Rooney 

It’s a known fact: It’s usually almost impossible to get teen-agers motivated to do much over the summer, without dangling either the money or the fun carrot.  For the eight enthusiastic high schoolers who attended Garrison Art Center’s (GAC) Summer Art Institute, the fun translated into something more subtle—the chance to enrich and expand their artistic talents. 
       Each summer, during this three-week-long program, professional artists instruct older students in a variety of media, including painting (landscapes,

Works by Sophia Panayotou

still lifes, abstracts), sculpture, pen-and-ink drawing, printmaking, and photography.  The program notes state: “Our earnest commitment is to be supportive, encouraging and open-minded. This highly successful program offers young artists five professional studios and two galleries in which to work and collaborate, enabling them to develop their creative abilities under the guidance of outstanding teaching artists who are masters in their fields. Provocative discussions with faculty and guest artists, field trips, visits to professional studios and the strong encouragement of risk-taking in a congenial environment free students to explore their ideas without limitations.” The program concluded this past Sunday (Aug. 8), with a reception for the artists, whose work was exhibited in GAC’s Gillette Gallery, accompanying an exhibit of works by their teachers, in the adjoining Balter Gallery. 

Works by Lindy Labriola

The director of the Summer Art Institute is Barbara Smith Gioia, who had previously taught in the program for several years.  Smith Gioia also manages GAC’s printmaking studio, teaches silkscreen workshops, and is co-chair and installation manager of the collaborative GAC/Boscobel CURRENT sculpture exhibit. She believes “wholeheartedly” in the teen program.  “Every year, we’re offering a program where students are totally immersed.  We take a solid academic approach to drawing and painting, but we also encourage students to push boundaries and go into zones they are not comfortable with.  Usually they take the lead and run with it.” 
       Student Sophia Panayotou, a 16-year-old from Cold Spring, echoed this when she noted that what she gained most from the program was “learning to loosen up.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.”  Panayotou added that she will definitely return next year. 
       Smith Gioia dubbed this year’s students “totally self-motivated.” The small group size made them extremely focused and brought discovery and joy.  Some kids came in early to work more on their projects.  Others attended the “Drawing From the Figure” Monday morning adult workshop run by John Allen, giving them the opportunity to draw and have their works critiqued during breaks.  Smith Gioia was amazed at how much they learned from just three such sessions, particularly in creating an environment for the figures, as students took inspiration from  “history books, landscapes and the works of Matisse” to create their own. 

Sculpture by Michael DiRosa

       “The art programs in the schools are only 40 minutes a day—that’s it,” enthused Garrison’s Stacy Labriola, whose 15-year-old daughter, Lindy, was a second-year participant  “So if your child has an interest in art, it’s in your best interest to get her into a program like this.  It’s a testament to Garrison Art Center that she wanted to come back and do it again.”  In fact, four of the eight participants this year were repeaters, including sisters Skyler Diemont, headed to college, who “practiced making 3-D works instead of 2-D,” and Kirin Diemont, soon to be a high school freshman, and a veteran of the programs for younger children that GAC offers earlier in the summer. 
       The daily program consisted of two 3-hour blocks, with drawing every morning.  In the afternoons, the focus rotated each week, from sculpture (working with a live model) to painting to photography/optional choices.  The students spent time outdoors, painting the glorious landscapes which serve as a backdrop to GAC, and headed to Boscobel to view the CURRENT sculpture exhibit and do landscape drawing. 
       Lindy Labriola praised the program: “This year the curriculum changed and it was more spread out, and it allowed you to practice the same medium and also focus more in the third week on what you wanted to pursue.  This year I explored ink and pen work. The more I do art, the more my knowledge of artistic values increases.  I’m learning different ways to express my artistic views, enhanced by this process.” 
       Other artists included Alyssa Baron, Grace Davison, Michael DiRosa, and Jessica Matrejek.  Each artist had a quote alongside of his or her works.  Davison’s quoted Edgar Tolson: “You form it with your hands; you make it with you mind.”  Matrejek’s stated: “Art is the expression that words cannot speak.” 

Faculty exhibit includes work by (l-r) Martee Levi, Cali Gorevic and Carlos Uribe

       The accompanying Summer Arts Faculty Show included works by Martee Levi, Cali Gorevic, Carlos Uribe, Sheryl Levine, Lisa Knaus, Ada Pilar Cruz, and Lisa Steffens.  Program Director Smith Gioia is exhibiting her work at the Marina Gallery, on Main Street in Cold Spring, through Aug. 29.  One of the students in the program for younger children turned up at the exhibit’s opening:  an 8-year-old boy, with sketchpad in hand, full of drawings from his post-program trip to Maine.  Who knows, with the artist-to-student training he will likely partake of through the years, perhaps he will exhibit at the Marina Gallery in 2030 or so. 
       For more information on GAC and its programs and exhibits throughout the year, visit or call 845-424-3960.

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