Library art exhibit showcases work of students, professionals

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Neither age nor years of experience appeared to be a factor in the quality of work on display as part of the current art exhibit at the Cranston Public Library.

During an opening of the “In the Neighborhood” exhibit this weekend, it was revealed that some of the works of art on display inside the meeting room at the library had been completed by artists as young as 12, and some with less than a year of experience.  Their pieces are complemented by work from those who have been studying art their entire lives, and have received training from highly regarded professionals in the field.

The goal, according to Claudia Venditto, the creator of the exhibit, was to have each of the pieces and the artists’ styles complement each other, creating a well-rounded exhibit.

Each month, the library hosts an art exhibit with different types of work created by various local artists. This month’s exhibit displays works from the Cranston-based Blue Door Studio. There are paintings, pen and ink and mixed media pieces in the exhibit. The works were completed by three adult artists –Venditto, her sister and fellow artist Ronda Cilento, who works full-time as an interior designer, and Angelo “Tony” DeSista, a first-year Blue Door Studio student of Venditto.

Another section of the exhibit was completed by student artists from the Blue Door who recently received recognition in the Rhode Island Scholastics Arts and Writing Competition. 

Venditto said she submitted the work of her advanced art class students into the competition. Two of her students received the highest honor, Gold Keys, and two others received the second-highest honors, Silver Keys. The remaining students received honorable mention. All of the students’ work was included in the exhibit with the exception of a few pieces, which Venditto said had not yet been returned from the competition.

The pieces in the exhibit did not, according to Venditto, follow a specific theme, but rather highlighted each of the artists’ qualities and artistic styles.

DeSista, a Cranston resident, said he choose one of his favorite pieces, a portrait of his grandfather, Gaetano DeSista, for the exhibit. DeSista said he unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting his grandfather, who was killed in World War II, but based his painting on pictures he had collected from family members. He gave the finished portrait, which depicts his grandfather in full uniform, to his father for his birthday.

His father, DeSista said, gladly offered up the painting for use in the exhibit.

Cilento, one of the other adult artists in the show, said she chose to display various works of art from her collection, including paintings, pen and ink and mixed media. She proudly displayed one of her most recent paintings, which she said was inspired by a photograph she took of a display from an interior design show she attended.

Venditto personally selected the works of art on display by the students. Although some of the students said they would have preferred to enter different pieces into the competition, they said they understand that Venditto had reasons for selecting the ones she did.

“In my experience, pieces that win in the scholastics competition are those that are technically resolved and original. There has to be a creative concept, a visible technical skill, the composition of the piece as well as its level of completeness,” Venditto said.

Using that baseline, Venditto said she scrolled through all of the most recent work completed by students in her advanced class and chose the pieces she said she felt best fit that criteria.

Liliana Zapata, a seventh-grade student at Smithfield Middle School, entered at pen-and-ink drawing entitled “Never Forget.” It depicts a fantasy-like elephant with wings, which is chasing after books morphed into butterflies. Zapata received an honorable mention for that piece.

Laura Wilson, a 10th-grade student at Johnston High School, submitted a self-portrait collage for which she was awarded a Silver Key.

Eileen Phou, an 11th-grade student at La Salle Academy who has been taking art lessons for less than a year at the Blue Door, entered two pieces – one entitled “A Splash of Color,” and another entitled “Tuesday Afternoon.”  Both, she said, received honorable mentions.

Sarah Bannon, a ninth-grade student at Scituate High School who has only been at the Blue Door for a few months and has had no prior art education, submitted a piece entitled “Wonder In Reality,” which was inspired by the Disney classic “Alice in Wonderland.” For this piece, Bannon received a Gold Key, the highest honor achievable.

Erin Turnbull, a ninth-grade student from Scituate High School, submitted two pieces into the competition. One piece, an acrylic painting entitled “Alexia,” earned her an honorable mention, and another, a self-portrait entitled “Reserved,” earned her the Silver Key.

Hannah Williams, a seventh-grade student from Scituate Middle School, entered two pieces. The first, a self-portrait entitled “Frostbitten,” secured her a Gold Key, and her second submission, “Frosted Delight,” which was an acrylic painting of a display of cupcakes, earned honorable mention.

Isabella Corso, a seventh-grade student at Western Hills Middle School in Cranston, earned an honorable mention for her submission of “IPomodori,” an acrylic painting of a tomato display.

Alexa Gardner, an eighth-grade student from Immaculate Conception School in Cranston, earned one Gold Key and one Silver Key for her two submitted pieces – “Melting Away,” which was a mixed media magazine cut-out collage, and “Rhythm,” which is a pen-and-ink rendition of a horse galloping.

“All of my students in the advanced class I would say have a natural ability, they just need a little help to bring it out,” Venditto said. “Plus they have a real passion for it, and that really comes out in their work, so it does make it hard, real hard, for me to choose which ones I want to submit. But we are only allowed so many, so I have to choose, and I think all of the students, no matter what place they earned, did a wonderful job, and I am glad to have them be a part of the exhibit.”

Both the student and the adult works of art will continue to be displayed in the meeting room of the Cranston Public Library’s Central Branch, located at 140 Sockanosett Cross Road, until the end of the month. Some of the pieces are priced for sale.

For more information, visit www.cranstonlibrary.org. For more on Blue Door Studio, visit www.bluedoorartstudio.com.

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