By TAYLOR HARTZ
There is hardly a blank space on the walls of Paul Gregory’s Bakery and Café, and it’s by design. Owner Paula Pierson teamed up with the advanced placement art class at Southington High School, and she found a way to use available space to showcase young, local artists.
One wall of the café will be dedicated entirely to student art.
“It’s a great opportunity for students of the art program to contribute to the community by displaying their art work,” said SHS art teacher Thomas Horanzy.
Pierson said that when she was considering options for decorating, she saw a great opportunity to “show the Southington community what these students are capable of.”
The first featured student was Hannah Francis, a senior in Horanzy’s art seminar and advanced placement studio art courses.
After excelling in Horanzy’s advanced painting and advanced drawing courses, Francis is now working on a 12-piece concentration project focused on physical displays of mental illnesses.
Several of her paintings and drawings have been hung at Paul Gregory’s, with one new opportunity separating the gallery from her high school art shows. At the café, her work is for sale.
Pierson said the Chamber of Commerce has helped facilitate the project, and the chamber has been instrumental in reaching out to teachers and businesses.
She chose to allow the pieces to be sold in the gallery to help students spark their careers. “This could lead to future job opportunities,” said Pierson. “This is our way to pay it forward.”
For Francis, it has already worked. State Rep. David Zoni commissioned a piece from the young artist shortly after her gallery was hung.
“It gives them a sense of the future,” said Pierson.
To further this goal, Pierson hosted a formal gallery opening for Francis and plans to do so for every upcoming artist.
The reception included community leaders, teachers, family, and friends, and required Francis to speak publicly about the work she had on display.
This individualized focus on their work and professionalism may be the students’ first chance to display their work as professional artists.
“I got the feel of what it was like to present my work,” said Francis, who said the opening was a new experience for feedback, criticism and discussing techniques.
Francis plans to attend University of Hartford to pursue an education and career in art and said the opportunity at Paul Gregory’s has taught her a great deal about pricing, gallery displays, and professional presentation.
Pierson plans to select a new student artist each month to fill the gallery.