A tear or two came to Anne Emerson’s eyes as she walked up and down the Door Community Auditorium’s (DCA) Link Gallery of Children’s Art while looking at the latest exhibit of student artwork.
“This does make you weep because the kids are affected by it,” said Emerson, who was the founder and longtime owner of Edgewood Orchard Galleries, and who helped push for and guide the building of the DCA, and who co-curates the Link’s exhibits with Vinni Chomeau, coordinator of the Friends of Gibraltar (FOG).
“Curates” may be the wrong word for what Emerson and Chomeau do. Instead, they lovingly tend to and look after the artwork of local students by professionally framing and hanging it in the Link.
There are typically four or five exhibits per year, with the summer exhibit featuring the work of students from all five Door County schools. They try to pick a theme that will offer a window into what Door County kids think about, and what it’s like to be a kid here.
The latest Link exhibit features work from students in second through eighth grade, and its theme follows the FOG theme of the school year: “Every day is Earth Day.”
FOG has been fostering relationships between students and nature with some of its programming, including Forest Days, during which kids spend an afternoon immersed in nature; and Tree Talks with Jane Burress, a forest walk/talk program for seventh- and eighth-graders.
Chomeau said, “When kids have time to reflect out in nature, that connection is translated into the artwork.” This visual art is then “something to hold on to that stays with you – gives you a place to return.”
All kinds of art are represented: cut paper, mixed media, tempera, watercolor and painted sculptures. The seventh- and eighth-graders even produced Andy Goldsworthy-inspired pieces that were photographed and are shown on a TV screen in the gallery. The elementary and middle school art classes complete different projects, and the art teachers – Emily Salm, Laura Meikle and Karla Donohue – select work to give to Chomeau to exhibit. The pieces are not judged, and prizes are not handed out. The artwork is all displayed and regarded on the same level.
When the artwork is selected to be included in the exhibit, the students must create a short artist statement to accompany their work. Emerson said, “It makes them vocalize where the ideas come from and communicate through writing.”
After the teachers hand over the selected artwork, Chomeau frames all the pieces. She said, “We felt it honored the artwork more if it was professionally presented.”
“It’s nice and important in an exhibit that they’re framed,” Emerson said. “It shows that we care about what they’re creating and the community connects with it. It’s great to see people who are coming here for shows stopping and looking – really looking – at the work. And some people don’t even know there is a school here.”
For Emerson and Chomeau, connecting – on multiple levels – is the guiding purpose of the Link. Children may not always feel heard or understood, but at the Link, they have an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with a larger audience through visual art, without fear of rejection or criticism.
“[The gallery] is a link between DCA and the school, and it’s a link between the school and the community,” Emerson said. “I’m just so glad that this isn’t just a hallway between two buildings.”
A reception for the latest Link exhibit will be held Jan. 28 at 6 pm, before the Pilobolus performance of Shadowland at 7 pm. Visitors may enjoy food, drinks and view the artwork. To learn more, visit dcauditorium.org.