EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 21, 2013

Teens with talent

Pelham students earn state, national awards

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — The community honors a group of award-winning artists during a reception this week at Pelham Public Library.

Three of them — Jillian Fisher, Nicole Mahogany and Brent Rubin — are recognized among the best in the nation and are bound this month for a ceremony at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

They all have something in common.

The artists are students at Pelham High.

“The quality of their work is amazing,” library director Corinne Chronopoulos said. “Really bold and expressive. Nothing is the same. They take a very creative approach. They are not just painting. There is collage and pottery. This is some of the best art we will show all year.”

Art teacher Casey Locke sees their creative efforts daily and is still dazzled.

“Their work looks post secondary, like they’ve been doing this for years,” Locke said.

School officials already are getting positive feedback from the library’s month-long exhibit, which features the Pelham students as “artist of the month.”

“People can’t believe this is work done by teenagers,” Locke said.

The reception is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The students won awards through the National Scholastic Art Award program. There were 230,000 submissions nationwide.

Thirteen students from New Hampshire received national honors. The three from Pelham are the only ones from Southern New Hampshire schools recognized.

Locke said other Pelham students, nearly 30, attained state awards this year.

The library exhibit includes work by Pelham’s national and state winners.

Choronopoulos said the library likes giving the students an opportunity to exhibit their work.

“They get a tremendous response from patrons,” she said.

Locke and art teaching colleague Michael Norton are impressed with what Pelham students accomplish year in and out.

“We’re a fairly small school in a little community, so it’s unusual to have that disproportionate share of works honored,” Locke said.

He credits Pelham’s success to a lot of factors, ranging from students willing to explore their talents to an encouraging curriculum and administration at the school.

Principal Dorothy Mohr is quick to ask what the art faculty and students need, he said.

“In a lot of schools, art programs are being cut,” Locke said. “We’re the opposite. Every year, it grows.”

Pelham students excel in different art forms — drawing, painting, sculpture.

“It’s a variety,” Locke said.

The Pelham teachers try to build student confidence and let them express themselves.

“We allow kids to pursue the art they are passionate about,” Locke said.

The teachers try to be persistent in honing their students’ talents, engaging them as much as they can, Norton said. He is pleased with their accomplishments.

“I’m just elated, extremely proud of them,” Norton said.

Jillian’s national award is for pottery, a three-lidded jar set on display at the library.

She has worked with pottery for just a year.

“I came to art class, got on the wheel one day and it came naturally,” she said.

Neither her father, Jim, nor her late mother, Diane, was an artist.

The national honor delighted her.

“I didn’t expect to win anything,” Jillian said.

Now the 18-year-old senior is considering pursuing art studies in college.

Her advice to other student artists is to accept constructive criticism in a positive way and have confidence.

“Believe in yourself,” she said.