ART: ‘Touch the Future’ marks 30th anniversary; on view at Arcadia University

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Three hundred and fifty artworks from students in 30 public high schools in Montgomery and Bucks counties are gracing the walls at Arcadia University for the 30th Annual Touch the Future Art Show, which kicked off Feb. 5 and runs through March 2 at the Commons Art Gallery and Great Room lobby, 450 S. Easton Road, Glenside.
Putting the final touches on the show, art teachers Lynne Pribis of Upper Dublin High School and Connie Berger of Cheltenham High School, two of four show co-chairs, reflected Feb. 2 on the origins of the event and its importance.
Sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Education Association Mideastern Region and co-sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools, the show was started in memory of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher chosen to go into space, who perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Berger said. The show was a way “for teachers to be able to have their art students express” McAuliffe’s comment, “I touch the future. I teach.”
It evolved over the years to show “the best of the best work coming out of public high schools” in Montgomery and Bucks counties, said Pribis, an organizer of the show for 16 years.
“Anyone who comes will be blown away with the quality,” Berger said.
“We’re trying to make it very special” for the 30th anniversary, Pribis said. A PowerPoint featuring the founders of the show and artwork purchased by PSEA over the years will be on continuous loop during the show, she said.
Winning students came from 13 different high schools and took home more than $2,300 contributed by MER/PSEA, as well as college scholarships to attend Arcadia University.
This year’s show was juried by Grace Ahn Klensin, assistant admissions director of the Temple University Tyler School of Art, who whittled down 430 entries to 350, Pribis said. The work is judged for “craftsmanship and originality.”
This year’s overall winners of Best in Show went to: First Place: Charlotte Perin, Harriton High, oil painting “Self-Portrait”; Second Place: Taylor Radcliffe, Council Rock South, 3-D functional “Ode to Jack Johnson”; Third Place: Sean Starosta, Upper Dublin, 3D mixed media sculpture “Machin (e)ations.” The Juror’s Prize went to Sarah Wiszolek, Upper Moreland, pastel “Happiness in Darkness.”
Purchase prize winners were: Mubassirah Sharif, North Penn, B&W photo; Karli Dangler, Truman, digital photo; and Connie Liu, Upper Dublin, chalk pastel.
A winner was also selected in 14 categories: printmaking, jewelry/metals, fiber crafts, 2-D mixed media, digital imaging/computer graphics, traditional silver print, painting – acrylic/oil/watercolor, drawing black & white, color drawing, 3-D functional, 3-D single medium sculpture, 3-D mixed media sculpture, 2-D design, and digital photography.
Some Arcadia students and faculty who have walked through the exhibit have been surprised it is the work of high school students, Pribis said.
“It looks very professional. Some will go on to art professions — it’s positive reinforcement for them,” she said. It shows them “you are really good.”
“The trend now,” for high school art classes, “is project-based learning,” Berger said. Students write about and talk about their work — history, chemistry, biology can come into play “in seeking answers to problems addressed to the students.” Students learn art vocabulary and the principles and elements of design and have to describe why they chose the materials they did, Pribis added.
Though it means extra work, both said they do it to show the importance of art in the high school curriculum.
“We want to not have cuts in our programs,” Pribis said. “If we don’t spearhead it, it will go away. This is an important course to take in high school. Communication now is visual communication.”
“It’s problem-solving across the board, not just art,” Berger said. “Everything you look at has all been first designed by an artist.”
The show “represents the best of public education and is indicative of the high-quality range of activities open to students throughout our region,” said Linda J. Weaver, PSEA/MER president in a release. “We’ll soon turn to talk of school budgets and when we do, it’s important to remember the importance of adequate funding to ensure that all students can explore and develop their passion across numerous interests and activities while in grades K to 12.”
The exhibition is free and open to the public through Thursday, March 2 during gallery hours at Arcadia University Commons Art Gallery Area and Great Room Lobby, 450 S. Easton Road, Glenside.

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