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Students strut their stuff at Celebrate the Arts

By Abbie Bowker

Special to the Observer

On a seasonably cold night in January last week, the halls of CVU were aglow with warm cheer and celebration around what has become an annual treat: the Celebrate the Arts Night at CVU. Hundreds turned out for what has become a yearly tradition for many families.

Arts are part of what makes us human and coming together in celebration of that beautiful side of humanity is a delight for all ages.
The evening kicked off with an amazing choral performance accompanied on piano by Carl Recchia, CVU’s choral director. Joan Spasyk of Williston, whose son Pete performed in the choral event, reflected, “I came to see Pete perform in chorus but I came early because I really do love to see all the art. The addition of having performances in the hallway creates a relaxed atmosphere for students and really showcases their joy of performing.”

Pop-up musical performances this year included the 6 p.m. choral performance, where Pete Spasyk made his mark, and a 6:30 show by CVU’s Jazz Band.

“The pop-up musical performances provide some focus points for the audience as they move through the broader exhibits,” Tim Duvernoy, a visual arts teacher at CVU, agreed. The broader exhibits were abundant.

Over 450 pieces of visual arts were hung by art teachers from around the district. Every bulletin board was employed in the lower level of the building to showcase work from students currently enrolled in CVU arts courses and from around the district. Work was on display from Williston Central, Shelburne Community School, Hinesburg Elementary and Charlotte Central School.

When asked why this night is so vital to her students, Emily McLean, a Visual Arts teacher at CVU said it was to build, outside of classroom learning, a much greater lesson.

“As artists, it is an important part of their learning to present and perform to a broader audience and also important to celebrate their own learning and achievements,” she said

In a time where arts education is at once championed, and at risk, considering the loss of a position at WCS last year and the reduction next year planned for at Charlotte Central School, we can recognize the importance of student exhibitions to build understanding and appreciation of the arts in education beyond the learner and into the community at large.

Every student — from CVU’s Introduction to Art course through Advanced Placement Studio Art — showed a piece they felt best represented their work from the semester.

Equally stunning, Basic Clothing Construction and Fashion Design students, alongside Technology Education student work, contributed to transforming the display cases and hallways.

Karen Needler, parent of Anna Needler, and also a math teacher at CVU, reflected on the scope of the show: “It is the event at our school where the most students’ work is represented… to have so many students across the school’s curricula – all ages, all grades – represented and presenting something they are proud of. The building is so alive – it sparkles. The parents, kids, teachers, children … It’s so exciting to come to Celebrate the Arts Night!”

At 7:30, you could hear a pin drop in the halls as every person at the show found their way to the CVU Theater for the main-stage performances.

Andy Miskavage and Carl Recchia prepared a show which included a diverse and beautiful arrangement performed by Madrigal Singers, Symphonic Winds and Chorus.

“We had one hundred students performing on stage, but the theater was full,” Recchia said. “Having the artwork of so many students from all around the district really enhanced the audience and brought together our whole community to celebrate the arts.”

As part of the Unified Arts department at CVU, I would want to thank those who came to participate in Celebrate the Arts Night, as artists, makers, performers and as audience.

And thank you to the community who continues to support the arts in so many ways. I’m proud of our students and our community coming together in this way — it is what makes being human beautiful.

Abbie Bowker is a Visual Arts teacher at CVU.