BY ELENA GRANDE
For Your Niskayuna
NISKAYUNA — If there’s one thing Stephen Honicki wants you to know about the Niskayuna High School Art Department, it’s that the program owes its success to the students who have moved through it.
The film and photography teacher at the high school organized “SILVER,” a juried exhibition that was on display from April 20 to May 8 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the school’s Nisk-Art gallery. The show featured works from several of the school’s alumni.
Organizing the exhibit, especially tracking down the featured artists, was no small feat, Honicki said. “As challenging as it was to locate … alumni, we still managed to create a great show,” he said. “It showcases the great work they have made since graduating [from] high school.”
Looking back over the past quarter century of fostering young art, Honicki says the art program itself has developed and changed over the years from when it began.
Not only has the program grown in terms of the sheer number of students enrolled in art classes, interest has also developed as a result of the huge growth of technology in everyday life, he said. As the rest of the world embraces technology, the art community follows suit.
With the increasing use and rapid improvement of tools like computers and software, and the growing importance of media in society, students are blending visual and media arts together in order to show what’s happening in the contemporary art world.
But despite the number of changes the high school department has seen throughout the years, two things remain the same: the passion and ability of the students.
Several students have gone on to find very successful careers in their desired field of art and are able to continue fostering their love of art that was so well nurtured in the classrooms of Niskayuna High School.
A few of the alumni featured in the exhibit were even able to make an appearance at the gallery’s closing reception Friday, May 8, including 2011 graduate Allison DeBritz.
DeBritz, a graduate this spring from SUNY New Paltz, recently had a senior thesis art show featured at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, which showcased a yearlong photography project of hers.
She said the art classes she took at Niskayuna set her apart from her classmates at New Paltz.
“I was leagues ahead of the other students,” DeBritz said. “I probably wouldn’t be the same artist today if it weren’t for this program.”
Having completed her huge thesis project, she said she has been slowing down quite a bit in terms of her artwork. However, she has big plans for the future, as she hopes to obtain a residency in New York City.
Matt Rudinski, a 2008 Niskayuna graduate and a motion graphic designer at movie trailer company Zealot in Brooklyn, also credits his success in college and beyond to what he was able to learn and explore in high school.
“Because of what I learned here, I was able to merge my interests in college,” he said. “I don’t think I’d have been able to do that otherwise.”
Rudinski has worked on visualizations for clients like the NFL Network and recording artist Usher.
The artistic achievements made by the former Niskayuna students have inspired current students to follow in their footsteps.
Junior Beca Piascik, an aspiring photographer who envisions herself in art school following high school, also credits her love and dedication for art to the art department at the high school.
“The teachers are very real and candid,” she said. “My teacher, Mr. Honicki, is very focused and passionate and goes above and beyond my expectations.”
She cites the alumni as motivation to pursue her love of art and to see how far it can take her.
“They show me that you really can make a living out of art,” Piascik said. “The fact that they’re still passionate and going with it after high school is really awesome.”