Classroom of the Week: Students' visual art responds to jazz

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PITTSFIELD — When Berkshires Jazz Inc. put out a call for entries for its ninth annual Student Art Contest, 66 students responded, all from Pittsfield High School, in an effort coordinated by art teacher Colleen Quinn.

Students from other schools have participated in previous years, but Ed Bride, the organization's president, said that "Colleen has been our go-to person for the student art contest since it was conceptualized by Art Niedeck.

Bride said that Niedeck, the Berkshires Jazz education chair and co-founder, conceived the program "as a way to engage more of the student community in a cross-genre creative activity."

Said Bride of Quinn's interest in enlisting her students' talents, "She has taken it seriously, making participation a class project, so her students tend to produce some very interesting work. This year was especially challenging, because Colleen's art room at PHS was impacted by the two incidents of burst water pipes, and I believe she will finish the academic year without getting back into it. Yet, she persisted. She is a credit to art, and to teaching; how lucky we are that she's also a nice person."

Berkshires Jazz is also to be commended for its support of the art contest, putting out calls for art in April, national Jazz Appreciation Month. For the past few years, the works are hung in the corridors of Pittsfield City Hall for the month of May and highlighted in the month's First Fridays Artswalk in the city's downtown.

This year's winning entry, an abstract watercolor by Estefania Rivera Cadvid, will be transformed into a graphic emblem for the 13th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, which the organization curates in mid-October.     

Bride said the judges — multimedia artist and designer Debbie Carter, oil painter Sean McCusker, and designer Tom Buckley — were charged with the difficult task of determining three winners, and five honorable mentions, and one special "Judge's Choice Award," which calls attention to work that, while not taking a prize, is especially deserving of recognition. Each entry was given a number so that blind judging could yield the winners.

Anthony Curico earned second place, Kenzi Kinnas took third; honorable mentions included, Lauren Phillips, Abby Kittler, Lauren Cowlin, Brian Lavinio and Stella Kimball Denbitzen. The Judge's Choice Award was given to Emily Mazzeo.

In addition to the Berkshires Jazz Student Art Show, Quinn's students in the past have been involved in community projects throughout the county, including participating in the annual Berkshire County High School Art Show at the Norman Rockwell Museum, creating anti-bullying posters for the PHS chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions, and creating a special Halloween costume for a local youth who uses a wheelchair, among other efforts.

Quinn herself is also an active community artist and mentor to other students and artists and teaches students at Berkshire Community College.


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