The original artwork of talented students from high schools in Bucks and Montgomery counties is being showcased in the 31st annual “Touch the Future” art show being held at Arcadia University in Glenside.

The show features 310 pieces from students in 24 high schools, explained Lynne Pribis, art teacher at Upper Dublin High School who has organized the show for the past 17 years.

“The artwork is an amazing quality,” Pribis said. “The level of the work looks professional.” She noted that because of the quality people walking through the gallery are asking if this is really from high school students.

“Every year it gets better — it is the best of the best throughout Bucks and Montgomery counties,” she added.

Pribis explained that the art teachers from each of the schools submit five of their best students’ work to compete in 14 categories, as well as for three top prizes in a “Best of Show category” and a Teachers’ Choice award. “It is really diversified,” Pribis said. The categories include drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, fiber crafts, jewelry and metals, 2-D and 3-D design and sculpture, and digital and computer graphics.

Pribis said the winners of this year’s show were selected by Grace Ahn Klensin, assistant director at Tyler School of Art - Temple University.

A highlight of the event is the addition of a new award, the Dr. Selma Burke Sculpture Award, given to honor the late African-American sculpture artist who was a nationally known member of the Harlem Renaissance movement and lived and worked in New Hope for over 46 years. Dr. Burke created the 1944 bas relief of Franklin Delano Roosevelt which later inspired the Roosevelt dime.

Pribis said the award was donated by Dr. Burke’s endowment fund since she was known for supporting young people who created sculptures.

The award was presented to Jianni Gonzalez, a sophomore student from the Council Rock North High School, for a 3D Functional ceramic vase she created titled “Black Power.” Jim Biglan, art teacher at the high school, said Gonzalez is talented, smart and passionate and has done some interesting things with her artwork. “She really took something that is a traditional assignment and made it personal, political and sculptural,” Biglan explained. He said she sculpted a black power clenched fist on the neck of a vase and put text on the base with the names of young black men who have been killed in civil rights protests, such as Emmett Till, and in more recent events, such as Trayvon Martin.

This year’s top “Best of Show” award was won by Rachel Benner, a senior at Cheltenham High School who created a 3-D Mixed Media sculpture of a 1950s’ style diner which she titled “Timeless Diner.” Connie Berger, art teacher at the school, said Benner combines art and her love of the 50s and all things retro in her whimsical project. Berger said the student used the shell of an old jukebox and completely replicated a 1950s diner in miniature down to the stools, food, coffee cups and silverware, using materials such as polymer clay, acrylic paint, straws, nylon stockings, wire and duct tape. “She is really dedicated to every aspect of the arts,” Berger said. “She is fabulous in painting and drawing and even won a photography award this past year. And she is really going to be a success.”

The annual juried show is sponsored by Pennsylvania State Education Association, Mideastern Region (PSEA/MER) and the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools (CAPS).

The event was started by and has been supported by the PSEA for 31 years in tribute to Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space who perished in the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and was known for her expression, “I touch the future. I teach.”

Bill Senavaitis, president elect of the PSEA/MER and a teacher at Tohickon Middle School in Central Bucks, said the $2,200 in prize money is provided by the PSEA/MER, and compensation will also be provided to two students who will agree to sell their works for display in the organization’s offices along with those of students from the past 30 years of shows.

“The arts in Bucks and Montgomery County schools are important to the community and important to us as an organization,” Senavaitis said. “We want to provide for the student artwork to be shared with the community. It’s a great event and we encourage people to stop by and check it out.”

Show chair Pribis said they are grateful to Arcadia University for providing the gallery space for the show and for offering scholarship money to some of the winners who would like to attend school there.

The exhibition is taking place at the Arcadia University Commons Art Gallery Area and Great Room Lobby, 450 S. Easton Road, Glenside. It is open to the public now through March 15 during gallery hours, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

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