Union County Teens Share Their Art And Performances With Their Peers

CRANFORD—It was two days of music, dance and art showcasing the work of some of the most accomplished teen artists from across Union County.

Nearly 4,000 middle and high school students descended on Union County College’s Cranford campus for the annual Teen Arts Festival.


For the teens who submitted artwork, which was hung throughout the campus center, they each would hear their creations critiqued by a professional artist.  For the dance and musical groups, professionals in those fields offered their assessment of the teens’ selection chosen for the festival.

“That was excellent,” dance instructor Tina Socci told students from Linden High School after they finished their dance routine. “Your technique was there. It was precise.”

Fellow dance teacher Charlene Smith also praised the students, but reminded them of the need to stay in character, especially when the focus of the piece shifts to other dancers.

Not only did the students appear to be enjoying the day, but so were the volunteers who assisted in the annual undertaking. “It’s amazing the talent these kids have,” said Lenore Pucik, who along with her friend Lucille Lucadema and other members of Kenilworth Senior Citizens, have volunteered for years at the festival.

As they walked through the maze of artworks, Lucadema commented that one of her favorites was a dress made out of newspaper, where the lower portion was pleated, while the top was woven like a basket.

Weaving that top took quite a bit of time, said Gov. Livingston High School student Lillian Barreto, who made the dress.  While the entire outfit took her two weeks to complete, the skirt section only required a day, she said, noting that the top, with all the folding and weaving, consumed the rest of the time.

Utilizing newspaper for the dress, with news stories wrapped within the weave, was deliberate.  “I think people need to think more about the present,” said the sophomore.

Barreto said she finds that too many people, including her peers, seem incapable of putting the negative things in their lives behind them and focus on the present.

In a different vein, focusing on the present was about all Elizabeth High School senior Juan Pablo Gonzalez could do as he attempted to draw on an Etch-A-Sketch for the first time.

“It’s hard,” said Gonzalez, trying to sketch a horse. “It’s harder than I thought,” he said, noting that it was a lot tougher than his video games.
But it was something that could be mastered, said Keith Drake, who was drawing an elephant on his Etch-a-Sketch.  Drake, a former technical artist at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, said he loved the challenges of drawing with an Etch-a-Sketch.

The Plainfield resident was one of 50 artists hired for the festival so that teens could also attend workshops in everything from writing a short play “with pizzaz” to water color cave painting.

Broadway singer and actress Jacqueline Kroschell, who critiqued the choral groups, said she was impressed with caliber of the students’ works,
“I travel all over the state and this is one of the best,” she said.

A Teen Arts Showcase 2010, which will include some of the performances and artwork from the Cranford festival, will be held at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway on April 28 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

While Plainfield artist Keith Drake, right, creates an elephant on his Etch-a-Sketch, which students could see displayed on a large screen TV, Elizabeth High School senior Juan Pablo Gonzalez, who normally works in pencil, works for the first time on an Etch-a-Sketch.

Elizabeth High School senior Juan Pablo Gonzalez, who normally works in pencil, works for the first time on an Etch-a-Sketch.  Gonzalez, who was attempting to draw a horse, said the Etch-a-Sketch was harder than any of his video games.

Lucille Lucadema, left, and Lenore Pucik, both of Kenilworth, help out as volunteers at the annual Union County Teen Arts Festival.  During one of their breaks, they had a chance to look at some of the students’ art work.

Lucille Lucadema, left, was a volunteer at the annual Union County Teen Arts Festival.  One of the works of art she liked most was a dress made out of woven newspaper, made by Gov. Livingston High School sophomore Lillian Barreto, right.  Barreto said she chose to make the dress out of newspaper stories to stress that people should live in the present.

The hallway at Union County College’s campus center may have been crowded, but that was not going to deter Linden High School sophomore Summer Anderson from getting a few more minutes of practice before her group had to perform and then be critiqued by one of the artists brought in to the two-day festival.

With only a few more minutes to go before their performance, several Jonathan Dayton High School students practiced their piece one last time before they would be critiqued by one of the artists brought in to the two-day festival.

Students from Linden High School performed their routine, which earned them high praise from the dance teachers who observed their performance.

Gov. Livingston High School sophomore Nicole Locorriere, left, practiced her origami skills as she and her friend, Jess Bohnenberger, a junior, work on making  flowers.

Artist Peter Lester, who has painted several murals in the metropolitan area and has worked in digital animation for the past 15 years, critiqued the art work of students from Union High School.  Fifty professionals were brought in for the two-day festival to critique each student’s work or group performance and share their observations with the teens.

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