Carolyn Sacco

Portraits of celebrities made out of magazine pieces and Campbell’s tomato soup cans were just some of the pieces on display at the Ives branch of the New Haven Free Public Library on Wednesday night.

The exhibition “Creative Minds: The Art of New Haven Youth” — the result of a partnership between the library and the New Haven Public Schools — will be on public display until May 6. It aims to showcase the work of high school students and members of adult education programs throughout the city and highlight the importance of an art curriculum in the school system. The artwork featured a variety of themes and mediums, from paintings on old vinyl records to self-portraits and photographs.

“Our students are more than test scores,” said Ellen Maust, the supervisor of performing and visual arts in New Haven Public Schools. “This is the way they voice their opinions, their thoughts, their ideas. They always have deep thoughts and deep emotions.”

In the past, the annual art exhibition for New Haven Public Schools has been held in other locations and included hundreds of pieces from all age levels. But this year, Maust said, the high school teachers wanted a place where high school students’ work could be showcased on its own.

Maust said the diversity of the gallery reflected the diversity in teaching at each of the schools. At the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, students are required to take a class in an art specialty every day. By contrast, in the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, students may take only one art credit in four years. At New Horizons, an alternative high school in New Haven, students learn about the intersection of art and mindfulness, while the adult education class mostly produces still lifes and portraits.

Nicki Vitali, a teacher at High School in the Community, said she included “a little bit of everything” in her students’ art exhibitions. She said she loves teaching art to high school students and appreciates the arts opportunities offered to high schoolers in New Haven, although they can sometimes be hard to find.

“I love getting to know [the students],” she said. “It’s a different day every day.”

Students who attended the event said they were excited to see their artwork displayed publicly.

Fatima Cisneros, a student at ESUMS, said she was “inspired” by her art class and hopes to become an architect when she is older. Her piece pictured a modern home with a city rising in the background. Her classmate Jacarie Houston was less enthusiastic about the prospect of art as a career, but said he enjoyed working on his piece and taking the class.

“I don’t think I am an artist, but I want to learn,” he told the News.

Kenny Torres, who attends Co-Op, created a collage of John Lennon’s face using magazine pieces and books about politics in the 1970s. He has had art in galleries before, but felt particularly proud of this piece because of the significance of John Lennon and the Beatles to his family.

“I recently got into [art],” he said. “It’s another way to express yourself.”

The Ives Gallery recently finished an exhibition entitled the Nature of New Haven.

Carolyn Sacco |