School gallery puts young artists in the spotlight

Sisters Isabella Stansbury, left, and Emily Stansbury, share a love for curating and displaying students' art. Photo by Rebecca IsenhartSisters Isabella Stansbury, left, and Emily Stansbury, share a love for curating and displaying students' art. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart
Sisters Isabella Stansbury, left, and Emily Stansbury, share a love for curating and displaying students' art. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

Sisters Isabella Stansbury, left, and Emily Stansbury, share a love for curating and displaying students’ art. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

By REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — When sisters Isabella and Emily Stansbury were kids, they used to spend vacations in the Florida Keys painting, drawing and setting up art shows for fun. They never really got tired of it.

Emily, a senior, and Isabella, a freshman, are both members of Niskayuna High School’s Gallery Club. Their first order of business this year was to set up the 25th annual Nisk-Art Gallery, a showcase of the best artwork from grades kindergarten through 11, curated by the district’s art teachers.

“It’s amazing to see what they’re able to come up with from such a young age,” Emily said of the featured students.

Kelly Jones, the district’s art director, just started her job in Niskayuna this year. She said the art show taught her a lot about Niskayuna’s young artists.

“The students are amazing,” said Jones, formerly a professor of art and art education at Sage College. “It’s a glimpse into what they do in the classroom.”

Isabella Stansbury practices hanging artwork at the Nisk-Art Gallery. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

Isabella Stansbury practices hanging artwork at the Nisk-Art Gallery. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

There are artworks of every medium in the showcase, from photographs and paintings to a handmade ceramic shark. The Gallery Club didn’t curate this exhibit, as it typically does, but its setup required creativity and precision.

“The students did everything,” Jones said. “It’s their gallery.”

“First we bring all the work out here and section it out by grade,” senior Nick Paquin said. Then, they decide how each piece fits into the gallery puzzle. Three-dimensional artworks have to be set on shelves or pedestals, and hanging art on the walls requires a spotter to make sure each item is straight.

It was no small task. Artwork was contributed by 112 students spread across all eight of the district’s schools. A total of 106 works hang in the cases, and an additional six videos were also selected, although you’ll need to attend the gallery reception on Oct. 7 to glimpse them. A dozen teachers made the decisions on which pieces to send in.

And that doesn’t even include the senior class. They have so much talent, they need their own exhibit later in the year.

The club had to complete the show before the school year began, which required summer meetings. They were a little short-staffed. In the past, the Gallery Club had been mostly seniors, who have since graduated. Other existing members played fall sports and were busy with practice.

Senior Nick Paquin adjusts three-dimensional art on a shelf in the Nisk-Art Gallery. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

Senior Nick Paquin adjusts three-dimensional art on a shelf in the Nisk-Art Gallery. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

That’s why Emily and Nick, the senior leaders, are so happy to have younger members on board this year — including their siblings. Nick’s sister, also a freshman, will become more involved when her volleyball season ends.

“This year, with Emily and I being management, we have to learn how to pass the torch,” Nick said.

They also recruited new members at the high school’s annual activities day, so they aren’t exactly sure how many members they have yet. But no matter the size of the club, the leaders will pass on the knowledge they’ve gathered during their time there.

And that’s really what it’s all about. As new art director Jones pointed out, traveling down the high school hallway that houses the gallery is like traveling 12 years into the future, from kindergarten to the second-last year of Niskayuna High.

“As you walk down and back you see the development of the child as an artist,” Jones said.

The district’s art lovers are invited to attend a reception from 6 to 7 p.m.

The gallery is open to the public through Nov. 5 anytime Niskayuna High School is open. Visitors must check in at the front of the school.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.