Painting the Picture of Behind the Scenes of the Bedford Public Schools K-12 Art Show

April 29, 2024

In art rooms around all four Bedford Public Schools, students and faculty are busy preparing for this weekend’s Bedford Public Schools K-12 Art Show.

The BPS K-12 Art Show has been a Bedford Schools tradition for the past 30 years.

“From the start, the overarching premise and principle of the show has been to represent each and every student involved in any sort of art class within the Bedford Public Schools by an artwork. That has not changed,” explained Larry Sheinfeld, art teacher at Bedford High School.

“It gives a great opportunity for students, families, and the community to experience a range of art, creativity, and expression across ages and across a variety of media,” Sheinfeld said.

John Preusch, the art teacher at Lt. Eleazer Davis Elementary School said, “The town of Bedford’s dedication to having a strong art program with opportunities for students to try out a variety of mediums is something I know the community really values. The art show is our annual opportunity to demonstrate how worthwhile that dedication is.”

“There are so many reasons why this show is important,” shared Sean Hagan, Bedford Public Schools K-12 Visual Arts Program Director. In addition to showcasing and “validating” the work of students and staff and providing a community outlet to appreciate the arts, “It’s a celebration of student creativity, inspiration, learning, experimentation, and effort.”

With the majority of the approximately 2,500 students in the Bedford Public Schools enrolled in an art class, there is a lot of work that goes into preparing for the K-12 Art Show.

“Collectively, between everyone in the [K-12 Visual Arts] department, it’s probably in the ballpark of 1,000 hours [of preparation for the show]. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration … I might be underestimating, actually,” Hagan said.

Preusch explained that at Davis School, in the weeks leading up to the art show, the kindergarten, first and second grade students look through art saved in their art class portfolios and choose the art they are most proud of.

“Sometimes they have an unfinished piece or a new idea for something new they want to create and race to finish it,” said Preusch.

Once the student chooses and finalizes their art piece, Preusch will matte each piece of art on a piece of paper, or figure out a display for 3-D sculptural and ceramic work and how to package the art to not be damaged during transport to the high school. Every item is labeled with the artist’s information, and Preusch creates signage for different classes. After this is completed the items are transported to the high school and each item is unpacked to be mounted or set out for display.

With close to 500 students at Davis School, Preusch’s preparation is a tremendous task, but he said after 10 years in the district and preparing for the show, he’s found ways to become more efficient year to year. “There’s never been a year it did not feel worth it.”

Preusch appreciates that the K-12 Art Show allows students to showcase their work to the entire district and community. And he says so do the Davis School students. The teacher said, “My students are very excited to go and show their families what they have created, but they’re often equally excited to walk the halls and see all the amazing things older students have on display and get a window into all the future art-making opportunities they will have in the years to come.”

Christina Kolak, a BHS senior art major, attests that’s just what happened to her. “I’m so excited to get to put together my own senior display because I have been going to the art show since I was in elementary school. It’s amazing to look back on how far my art has come and how much my art has changed over my time in middle and high school.”

Ada Cooprider, another senior art major at BHS, agreed when asked how she felt about preparing her senior display. Cooprider said, “I have been excited about this since I was in elementary school. I remember looking at seniors’ artwork and thinking it was awesome and museum-worthy, and I hope that I can in turn inspire some children to be excited for their own future displays.” 

The BPS K-12 Art Show opens Friday evening, with hours on Saturday and Sunday. The event is free and open to the entire community. Photo Jenny Stewart

Hagan explained, “Seniors who are ‘art majors’ can exhibit work at the show, provided they submit an artist statement and a mock-up of how their display will physically look.” The larger scale senior displays, showcasing multiple pieces of student art, are mapped out and arranged in and around the BHS main lobby.

Kolak said, “When I was little, I would always try to picture what my own senior display would look like, and it’s very surreal to see it finally come together.” 

Cooprider, who is planning to attend Massachusetts College of Art and Design this fall majoring in illustration, is assembling her senior art major display mostly of favorite recent pieces of her art. “Many of them are pieces I included in my college application portfolio, or pieces I would have added if I’d made them within the college application window.”  

Hagan explained when choosing what art goes into the show, “There are some projects that seem to be built for the art show.” What comes to mind for Hagan with BHS students is portraiture in photography classes, functional ceramics (“art that can be used”), and large-scale art.

Sheinfeld said, “We art teachers generally aim to have each student choose the piece they wish to have in the art show. Making this choice presents a great opportunity for students to reflect on the range of art-making in which they’ve engaged over the course of the year.”

Hagan said some teachers can also use the show as an opportunity to create specific pieces. “This year, there will be a huge sculpture of a lion made out of found objects, made by [Gretchen] Grant’s classes at the John Glenn Middle School.”

As in 2023, the BHS gym space will be used again to present a communal and “gallery-like environment” this weekend. Photo Jenny Stewart

Figuring out the floor plan and layout is yet another logistical layer of the K-12 Art Show setup work. Each school is given a general section. This year, the plan is similar to last year with art around corridors, but JGMS and Lane projects displayed in the gym. Hagan says this allows for more of a communal and “gallery-like environment.”

Hagan added, “There is a wow factor when you walk in that space now, similar to when you see the senior displays in the lobby.”

Facilities and custodial staff are involved in the art show set up with tables and displays to be moved for art that isn’t hung on the walls or in the display cabinets. There is also scheduling, planning meetings, applications and permits, finding music performers and other details for an opening night reception, finding student and other volunteers, and acquiring tools and resources for labeling and displays.

Hagan said, “I’ve always got the show in the back of my mind. This past summer, I was cutting plexiglass for hours in my garage to be used as a stacking display for three-dimensional work.”

Lt. Job Lane Elementary School art teacher Jen Ferrari, and the 570 third, fourth, and fifth grade students, began preparing in earnest for the K-12 Art Show in February (including “deciding on media and tools to use, exploring their idea, making mistakes or changes, reflecting on whether it’s finished, and writing artist statements to accompany the work.”) Ferrari runs the Lane School art room utilizing a choice-based model of art education called Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB).

Under the TAB model, Lane School art class is about student autonomy, collaboration, and social development, and meeting the “innate expressive needs of students.”

Because of the student choice and time spent in exploration, Ferrari explains that the resulting art can look “less refined,” so part of Ferrari’s K-12 Art Show preparation, as being something of a TAB ambassador, includes informational and educational posters about the TAB classroom.

While advocating TAB is important to Ferrari, “My favorite part of the show is watching the kids’ faces light up when they see their work on display. For some students, this is the first time they have 100 percent envisioned, created, and selected work to display in the show. It’s their dream come true!”

The K-12 Art show began in the 1994 school year as Tony Pilla started his tenure as BPS K-12 Art Director, and parent volunteers and professional visual artists Susanna Natti and Ronnie Gould began a group called ArtLink to support and encourage visual arts in Bedford schools.

Gould, a ceramic figurative sculptor who moved from Bedford last year to be closer to family said, “We wanted all the students to feel that their creations were important and to have the community support them. I believe it is the pride the students feel seeing their work displayed that has been the motivation to continue the art show after all these years.”

The 2024 BPS K-12 Art Show takes place this Friday through Sunday at Bedford High School. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the free event any time during open hours, which are:

  • 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 3
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 4
  • 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 5
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