As ideas swirled in Ms. Kehoe’s head about starting an art exhibit for students outside of the classroom, a light bulb went on. She was sitting in a chair at the Bellibone Lounge in Maywood when she noticed some fantastic artwork on the gallery wall. She thought it would be “…a perfect way to display student artwork in the community” and that it “seemed like a good place to start”. After contacting a few small businesses to exhibit Becton’s art, this opportunity presented itself.
Kehoe sat down with Sofia Magripilis, the co-creator of the women-owned and run business, to discuss the possibility. According to the “About” section of the Bellibone Salon website, co-creators Magripilis and Vania DeSanctis use the space as “…not just a salon but also a sanctuary for their team members and local artists.” (bellibonesalon.com). As part of the show’s personal statement, it was only fitting to collaborate with the Becton students. “Magripilis was very excited about the idea,” added Kehoe. So the two teamed up and secured a place for Becton’s art students in the exhibit.!
Beginning in October 2021, Kehoe and Becton Art Teacher Dawn Savincki sent out a survey to all students attending art classes for the opportunity to share their work with the public. Senior Danny Perea Bravo noted that “I heard about the exhibit from Ms. Savincki when she handed out a form explaining a chance to feature your artwork in an exhibit and potentially SELL it.” As word spread among the students of Savincki and Kehoe, ten students, in particular, were accepted into the exhibition. Kehoe added: “…we will continue to participate [in the exhibit] as long as possible.” In initiating the exhibition, Savincki and Kehoe worked together to choose a few students to exhibit their work. However, all students are welcome to submit their work for a place in the exhibition. Kehoe noted that the art within the exhibit changes constantly, particularly when student art is purchased.
Interested students are encouraged to submit their work to Kehoe and Savincki. She reflected on the process, stating that “We will choose a few students to present at a time. If chosen, they will receive a permission slip and then work with their art teacher to frame the piece for sale. They also come with a price and a title. Since October, the works of ten students have been presented, including five who have sold their work so far. Most of the artwork produced by the students was created in their art classes.
Official artwork sent to the show was printed and framed in the students’ respective art classes, and Kehoe brought the art to the show for framing. Included in the display of art were labels created showing the name of the artist, the title of their work, as well as the price. All framed and hung artwork in the exhibition is available for purchase by all Bellibone visitors. If pieces are sold, the student artist earns money while a small percentage goes to the salon.
The five students who have sold their art so far are Genelia Paulraj, Allision Rodriguez, Danny Perea Bravo, Elaha Ahmed and Sophia DiDomenico. Perea Bravo was prompted to apply to be featured in the exhibit soon after hearing about it. “I wanted to sign up right away because I loved showing my art to the few people I know, and having the opportunity to show it to so many more people gave me an extra push to sign up.” While he had another piece of art in mind when he chose one to exhibit, he submitted a design using oil pastels of a tiger for the exhibit. He finally decided to choose it for the exhibition because the tiger “…was [his] favorite animal of all time,” added Perea Bravo. He noted that having his artwork in a gallery felt exhilarating because it was the first time he could do it. His sense of accomplishment was indeed reflected in the buyer of the coin as the coin sold out just weeks after it was presented.
However, Perea Bravo didn’t let the excitement get in her head while waiting for a potential offer. “A detail that was imperative to note during the process was not to expect the work to sell.” Instead, he filled his mind with feelings of accomplishment for having his art on the wall in the first place. Perea Bravo expresses interest in participating in future art exhibitions, stating that he “already [has] one in the works. He insists that budding artists “sign up for anything that gives them a chance to present [their] art”, also giving advice stating “not to criticize your art too harshly because, in the end, no one can ever perfect the art”. Perea Bravo values uncertainty in her statement, saying, “It never hurts to try new things, whether it’s signing up for an exhibition or trying out a new artistic medium or something. something new in life, because it can lead to many great things.” Trying new things that spark self-interest allows individuals to resonate with one or more of these things, eventually changing the trajectory of their careers. For Bravo, he can use his talents as an artist to turn them into a career in the visual arts.
Another student, Senior Elaha Ahmed, rushed to get her permission form filled out right away! Ahmed’s artwork revolved around his culture. She explains, “The inspiration for this art was my Bengali culture and I just wanted to pay homage to brides from my culture who chose to wear masks even on their wedding day.” She named the piece “Ethereal” for its delicate, lighthearted nature that comes across as “…too perfect for this world.” While creating this piece over the last summer break, she constructed the colorful piece with watercolor paint, markers and glitter pens. At first, Ahmed was hesitant about the coin in terms of how it would look to potential buyers due to its diverse nature. She shared her gratification for finding her art at home expressing, “I was happy when it was sold because it showed me that people are ready to accept and buy something so unique and cultural. . I felt proud to have represented my Bengali culture through this exhibition. It’s easy to think that the art one has created won’t resonate with others because of the specific feelings that prompted the piece to be created in the first place. However, celebrating and embracing the culture is an important step towards awareness and acceptance. For Ahmed, his personal statement as an artist is: “It’s about bringing it home.” His pride in his homeland, Bangladesh, is a driving force in a multitude of his artistic endeavors and is his superpower.
This opportunity is an incredible gateway into the professional world of exhibiting and selling works of art. Many artists face adversity for choosing a questionable “unreliable career.” Yet the reality of these students selling their art says otherwise. Kehoe says, “Students benefit from participating in this exhibition by being able to see how you can make a living as an artist and see how a gallery works.” Entering the art world takes a lot of courage, and getting a taste of what it’s like outside of school events serves as a trial run for other possibilities. Becton is focused on providing a gateway to hundreds of career paths and continues to do so with expanding student body and faculty. From Performing Arts Theater productions to using the Katherine Wickle-Ochipa Production Studio, Becton prepares students by giving them real-world opportunities to express their creativity. Kehoe backs this up by saying, “Becton builds the foundation for the possibility of professional work in the future by giving students insight into the art selling process.” The Bellibone exhibition is a transformative opportunity open to all students interested in business. Becton Regional High School provides opportunities for its students through the Bellibone Exhibit which uplifts students in the arts, is profound, and results in personal achievement and growth.