Expressions of Youth

February 9, 2018 GMT

LOWELL -- Young artists from eight states had their work on display Saturday for visitors and judges in the Onyx Room at Western Avenue Studios in Lowell.

The pieces for review are all local winners of their respective Boys & Girls Clubs from 33 participating chapters in northeastern United States.

The 450 paintings, sketches, mixed media and photographs were exhibited categorically throughout the massive venue.

The perimeter of the room was adorned, floor-to-ceiling, with the works.

Aisles of partitions and a dozen or so tables also were arranged, on which even more compositions were displayed.

The pieces were judged by 21 experts from all fields of visual arts, including local sculptors, teachers, photographers and working artists, who evaluated the works based on age groups, genres and other classifications.

Since each piece was devoid of identification -- so as not to give an edge to the home team -- the judges could objectively assign a value ranking to each piece, thereby using a mathematical formula to assess scores.

The winners of each of the 14 categories will advance to the national competition in San Diego, May 2-4.

Despite the quantifiable and impartial nature of the process, the results were not immediately released. The two-week delay in announcing the winners heightens whatever suspense lingers in the artists, as well as in their families and supporters.

But, according to 14-year-old Tristen Huynh, a contestant in the “pastel” category, “I don’t really think about competition when I sit down to create something. I am just expressing myself through art.”

Her fellow club-mate from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Angelina Khiem, 16, who aspires more toward creative writing, said of her Multi-Colored Drawing entry, “Art is expression just like writing is. But the beauty is more subtle.”

The Lowell contingent all got their start in the club’s Makerspace, a new 1,000-square-foot art and STEM room in the building’s lower floor.

Staff member and mentor Na Lam, was quick to point out that they belong in the same room because, STEM is now referred to as STEAM, with art represented by the letter ‘A’.

“We try to get them to think of STEAM as a college choice and to explore all areas, not just math or engineering or pottery, but in combinations with each other,” she said.

The Makerspace is so new that it has not yet had its official launch. That is scheduled for March, when hi-tech products like a 3-D printer will be added, thus expanding the possibilities for artistic, engineering and scientifically minded children who congregate daily at the 657 Middlesex St. club, which boasts a current membership of about 350.

Also present at the event was another artist from the club. Guitarist Nicholas Figueroa, 17, provided some ambiance for the roughly 200 guests. Among the visitors was aspiring graphic artist Julian Chaparro of Lowell, who said, “I am impressed with such good art at such young ages.” The artists are 7-18 years old and their work is divvied into four age groups.

Husband and wife judges Angela Ales and Roneld Lores also commented on the eclectic visions of the children.

“A great deal of variety,” said Lores.

Added Ales: “A lot of political messages (within) that I wasn’t expecting.”

That is likely a testament to the children’s sophisticated understanding of the world beyond their neighborhood. The multi-cultural aspect of the clubs helps promote that curiosity, tolerance and acceptance.