Palm Beach County youth show has unique perspectives in dual photography exhibition

Chastity Pascoe

Susan Mosely, Director of Cultural Arts, Health and Life Skills for Boys & Girls Club of Palm Beach County, studies the children's photos lining the walls of the Schmidt Center Gallery Public Space before the opening reception of the ImageMakers National Photography Exhibition on Friday, March 22. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Susan Mosely, Director of Cultural Arts, Health and Life Skills for Boys & Girls Club of Palm Beach County, studies the children’s photos lining the walls of the Schmidt Center Gallery Public Space before the opening reception of the ImageMakers National Photography Exhibition on Friday, March 22. Photo by Ryan Murphy.

Art exhibitions are usually filled with canvas after canvas of pieces created by studying or well-established artists. But on Friday night, March 22, FAU’s Schmidt Center Public Space, in the Performing Arts Building, provided the venue for a dual exhibition that hosted 2D artwork created by Palm Beach County’s youth.

The exhibition’s purpose was to showcase the work of local young artists. The Palm Beach County Boys & Girls Clubs’ exhibit — called ImageMakers — featured the work of over 73 Palm Beach County’s Boys & Girls Clubs’ members. The Lantana Lodge No. 372 for Free and Accepted Masons — a diverse fraternity of men ages eighteen and older — hosted their 2013 Liberty Art Contest which was open to all high school students of Palm Beach County through the ImageMakers exhibit.

The ImageMakers exhibit featured two walls filled with digital photography that was arranged into three categories: surroundings, portraits, and culture and tradition. The children, whose ages ranged from six to 17, were given DSLR cameras which they used during different field trips to places such as Mizner Park and a flea market on Sunset Boulevard.

The dual exhibition’s opening welcomed a crowd of about 30 people that ranged from Boys & Girls Clubs’ members and their families to the teachers of the Palm Beach County high school students that entered in the Liberty Art Contest.

Gallery visitors take in the children's art while eating refreshments provided for the opening reception. Seventy three children from the Palm Beach County Boys & Girls Club have photographs on display in the Schmidt Center Gallery Public Space through March 30. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Gallery visitors take in the children’s art while eating
refreshments provided for the opening reception. Seventy three children from the Palm Beach County Boys & Girls Club have photographs on display in the Schmidt Center Gallery Public Space through March
30. Photo by Ryan Murphy.

The youngest of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ members that won for the regional competition was seven year old Isabella Grajales. Like many of her peers that visited dual exhibit’s opening night, Grajales was so preoccupied with searching through the photos that she could hardly stand still.

Unlike fellow regional winner Isaiah Portilla, who made sure to answer every question about his work, Grajales only excitedly affirmed that she was the artist who took the photo of the turning ceiling fan before running off to look through the rest of the photos.

Her older sister, Arianna Grajales, was also featured in the exhibit. Arianna has been with the Boys & Girls Club for two and a half years and has been involved with the annual exhibition ever since. She plans to continue her activity in the photography program as long as she is a Boys & Girls Club member. Throughout the exhibit, children pointed proudly at their accomplishments as their parents cooed behind their cameras, snapping photos of them beside their works of art.

But the children weren’t the only ones who were excited. Dennis Young, the director of computer education for the Palm Beach County Boys & Girls Club, referred to the photography excursions as individual adventures and said that their purpose was to help the children “find something that they’ve never seen before.”

Besides being an outlet for exploration, the exhibit introduced its members to culturally stimulating activities that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to. Beyond work with photography, the students take part in other activities at the Boys & Girls Clubs such as ballroom dancing, which Young stated was not only a big hit, but led to national recognition for two particularly talented members.

The other half of the dual exhibition was an idea implemented by Isidro Pentzke, a senior fine arts major at FAU. This is the Liberty Art Contest’s second running year. Pentzke introduced the project to FAU’s Museum Education Program Coordinator Elizabeth D’Antonio last year and it has been an exhibit that FAU has produced ever since.

Anton Spalding, Core Technology Specialist for Boys & Girls Club of Palm Beach County, reviews a wall of photographs. Spalding, along with Director of Computer Education Dennis Young, led the ImageMakers program, teaching photographic skills to the children of the Club. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Anton Spalding, Core Technology Specialist for Boys & Girls Club of Palm Beach County, reviews a wall of photographs. Spalding, along with Director of Computer Education Dennis Young, led the ImageMakers
program, teaching photographic skills to the children of the Club. Photo by Ryan Murphy.

Unlike the ImageMakers exhibit, the Liberty Art Contest not only welcomed photography but all other forms of 2D art, as well as Photoshop manipulated digital photos.

“To come into university galleries, we wanted to show more art than just photography,” said Pentzke. His purpose for creating the contest was to provide students with the opportunity to show their work in a professional setting.

Also, unlike the ImageMakers Exhibition, winners have yet to be crowned and due to Palm Beach County’s spring break starting the first day of the exhibition, they will not be announced until next Tuesday. Judges of the competition are a panel of FAU arts professors who hold the responsibility of naming the top three winners, all of which receive a fifty dollar prize. In the event of a tie, the Lantana Lodge vote for “people’s choice” will be the deciding factor.

Anton Spalding, the Palm Beach County Boys and Girls Club’s core technology specialist, had a hard time choosing only one favorite because he felt they all evoked something different.

“This one’s one of my favorites,” stated Spalding, pointing to one of two regional winning photos, featuring a bench under a large tree at Mott Botanical Gardens. “And what’s amazing is that when the kids go, they’re not necessarily thinking of all the things I’m thinking of. They’re just capturing beauty.”

Spalding also cited the importance of teaching the children to “keep their childhood fancy” and it is without a doubt that this dual exhibition did exactly that, providing a creative outlet not only for the Boys & Girls Clubs members, but for the high school students of Palm Beach County that were showcased in the Liberty Art Contest as well.

The dual exhibit is on view at FAU’s Schmidt Center Public Space in the Performing Arts Building and runs from March 22 to March 30. The gallery is closed Sundays and Mondays. Admission is free.