Barbara Lane has experienced—and enjoyed— her share of events during her teaching career in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
She served for 37 years as an English Teacher at Bridgewater-Raritan High School East and then when the district merged into one high school.
During her teaching career that ended in 2007 when she retired, she was active in various extra curricular activities such as the student council.
“I have been to a lot of things and I know talent,” Ms. Lane said.
But, she continued.
“But I never saw anything like I did when I went to the Festival this week,” she declared.
Ms. Lane reported that it was her first trip back to the high school when she was invited by a family whom she had met at the Garden Club in Bridgewater to The Festival of Arts 2023 District Visual Art Exhibit that was presented at Bridgewater-Raritan High School on Wednesday evening, May 17.
“There was fantastic stuff all over,” Ms. Lane said about the exhibit that contained works in both the high school’s cafeteria and the old gym, where the Class of 2023 showed off its fine creations.
“It was amazing and you had grandparents, families and tiny kids all over,” Ms. Lane said. “I never saw so many things on display and so many people there and looking.
“The stuff looked professional.”
The stuff featured an estimated close to 1,000 pieces of art--including a robust 500 pieces in the senior exhibit alone---that were produced by students in art classes throughout the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
The Visual Art Exhibit capped what was a magnificent Festival of Arts 2023 that was presented by what is arguably the finest Arts Education Department in all of New Jersey.
The highly acclaimed Festival began on March 23 when the Chorus Concert was performed. The Orchestra Concert followed on March 29 and the Band Concert was held on March 30
All three concerts were performed before captive and large audiences at the Bridgewater-Raritan High School’s main gym, the Vaughn Stapleton Gymnasium.
The large contingent of interested visitors continued when an audience of observers flocked to the cafeteria and old gym at the high school to scan their fine work of the student artists on May 17.
Liz Stutzman, who, along with the passionate and devoted art teachers from throughout the school district coordinated this wonderful art exhibit on May 17, is the guiding light for the students in her role as Art Teacher for Bridgewater-Raritan High School.
“The show is called the Festival of Arts and it is really a celebration of our students and their artistic achievements that took a whole school year to produce,” Ms. Stutzman said. “ It is such a pleasure to see the parents and community come out for this annual event.”
She explained how more rewarding it is when you visit a gallery such as what was on display at the high school that evening.
“Art is visual you have to see in person to get the full appreciation of its size, materials and true colors,” Ms. Stutzman said. “ It is more impactful in person. Plus, with the artist right there it is more of a celebration.”
Matt McCarthy, who took command of this wonderful department in March as the Supervisor of Arts Education, was touched while experiencing his first taste of the gifts that our school district’s students possess.
“What an amazing exhibition of creativity and craftsmanship,” Mr. McCarthy said after the Visual Art Exhibit came to a close on May 17. “Artmaking is at its core about reflecting on our experiences and making connections. It is discipline that allows students to apply and build upon all of their learning and interests. The pictures and objects on display at the festival were proof of that.”
Mr. McCarthy inherited all of this talent from Dr. Laura Bassett, who had helped mold the school district’s Fine and Performing Arts Program where it stands today and how well it is perceived on the scholastic level in all of New Jersey. Dr. Bassett, who has been in the school district since 2017, began her new position as Principal of the Eisenhower Intermediate School on February 1, 2023.
As in the case of the Visual Art Exhibit, the student artists were thrilled to share their works with family and friends.
“Students were eager to explain the content of their work to family members and, as I walked the gallery, I saw community members of all ages joyously making and sharing their own connections with the artworks.,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Students were on hand in the gallery–cafeteria and gym–and their names were attached to the displays on the walls and tables.
Ms. Lane and her friends, the Fargo family, attend the exhibit since one of the children, Drew, had his work that he created as a 3rd Grade student at the Van Holten Primary School on display.
“His art teacher at Van Holten, Mr. G (Brian Goteiner) told Drew that the piece of art that he did and took home that he wished that Drew kept at school so it could have been put up in the classroom,’ Ms. Lane revealed.
From primary school to high school, the works all received A grades.
The senior AP Art students under Ms Stutzman showcased their impressive displays in the old gym.
“The show was a culmination of the collaboration that takes place in the art classroom between teacher and student daily,” Ms. Stutzman said. “My senior artists really put on a show in the small gym.”
It was there, where her talented pupils relished the present and the past.
“I remember going to the Festival of the Arts when I was younger and admiring all the work done by the AP students,” senior Diya Hunashimarad said. “Attending the last art show of high school felt very bittersweet but it was so rewarding to see my artwork on the big panels that I used to look up to.”
Her classmate, Casey Lee, revealed that she waited for this day to arrive.
“I have been dreaming of my senior year art show ever since primary school, and it was everything I ever dreamed of,” Casey said. “It was so much fun to see everyone enjoy the portfolios and art we worked so hard on.”
These fantastic works of art by the students are assisted by the fine staff across the board in the school district.
“Thank you to our district art teachers who went above and beyond to create a truly memorable night,” Mr. McCarty said.
Ms. Stutzman added:
“I am proud to work in a district that is supportive of the fine arts.”
One of her senior art students, Sanya Shah, will recall the recollection of her fond experiences at the high school.
“My memories gathered from being a part of Ms. Stutzman’s AP Studio Art class and our senior art show will forever be cherished,” Sanya said. “ The art show was such an important moment for our class and will now be stored as a precious memory that we all shared.”
Ms. Lane can attest to the memories that she will carry on.
“I'm not kidding, this was the most spectacular event I can remember.”