Teen Arts Festival fosters friendships and creativity

SCCC event welcomes teens from around the county

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  • Students from around the county explore the SCCC campus during the Teen Arts Festival Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • Heather Dickerson, Kamryn Zanella, and Julia Dworzycki performed as part of the Newton High Honors Choir

  • Seventh grader Amanda Simpson learned how to juggle at the festival. She is from the Hardyston Middle School.

  • Maddie Mueller and Amy Hermosillo from High Point high school admired the work of their peers.

By Laurie Gordon

— Though they were adept with the arts themselves, two juniors from High Point High School were enthralled with checking out other teens' artistic works at last Tuesday's Teen Arts Festival held at Sussex County Community College (SCCC). Maddie Mueller and Amy Hermosilla wandered through the exhibits praising the talents of their peers.

“I love this festival,” Mueller said, “It's just so awesome, and the creativity is so great.”

Hermosilla agreed, “It's a great chance for us to express ourselves through art and enjoy what others have done.”

Each spring, the Teen Arts Festival re-establishes the importance of art as a positive outlet for adolescents. The festival is a harvest of art and culture as students travel all over the SCCC campus to take it all in. In the Performing Arts Center, groups are critiqued.

Mitzi Campbell, a professor in SCCC's English Departmen, was the new Teen Arts Festival coordinator this year.

She said, “The Sussex County Teen Arts Festival is a creative hub. This one-of-a-kind event provides an opportunity for individuals who have been creating art and performing in isolation within their own schools to come together in a collaborative epicenter. Students are exposed to one another’s talents. This unique atmosphere allows for a freedom of expression and heightened vibrancy that is difficult to achieve under normal circumstances. Teen Arts is an incubator where all of the different areas of the arts converge in a day of creative intensity."

Campbell added, “Emerging and professional artists interact with one another to hone and develop skills, generate new forms of expression, enhance problem-solving skills, boost levels of joy and excitement and stimulate critical thinking. The energy is palpable. All of these benefits are the natural consequences of immersion in the arts.”

Getting ready for this day-long event that sees middle and high school students taking in and performing the arts all over the college campus is a lot to coordinate.

“Preparation for the Teen Arts Festival is conducted during roughly ten months out of the year with the most intense planning and activity in the winter and spring,” Campbell said. “Sussex County Community College has proudly devoted itself to this enormous undertaking for decades as evidence of it’s solid commitment to the arts and to the young people of our region. This year, we hosted 18 schools, over 45 professional artists and many community members. Attendance was in excess of 1500 people watching and participating in exhibits, performances, workshops and demonstrations. It was a magical day for all.”

Under the direction of music teacher John Potosnak, students from Sussex Middle School had a chance to be critiqued for their singing.

Potosnak said, “We try to do this every year because it's a great opportunity for the students. We brought our select choir and they did great. The Teen Arts Festival lets the kids meet other kids from all over the county and allows them to showcase their talents.”

In one area outside the theater, students were given juggling lessons, and Amanda Simpson, a seventh grader at the Hardyston Middle School really got the hang of it.

“This is my first year at the Teen Arts Fesitval,” she said. “I submitted my photography.”

Heather Dickerson is a senior at Newton High School and performed at the festival as part of Newton's Honors Choir.

She said, “I love this event and it's a great way for teens to express themselves.”

Dickerson plans to attend Montclair State University next year. The students traveled in groups all over the SCCC campus taking it all in. This much-anticipated annual event underscores educators' conviction that budgets for the arts can't be allowed to dwindle and parents and teachers have to hold on to stressing their importance. The festival forges new friendships between kids from different schools all in the scheme of art, music and a whole lot of creativity.

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