Riverdale Park Arts Festival honors student artists

BY LINDSAY MYERS  — Art is multigenerational in Riverdale Park. On May 1, three student artists were recognized for outstanding achievement in the arts at the 2016 Riverdale Park Arts Festival.

Parkdale High School students, Cydney Hendrick and Wendy Pheth, took first and second place respectively in the festival’s first Youth Arts Award and were awarded cash prizes of $300 and $200. “The life spring of an organization is collaboration, “ said Riverdale Park Arts Council President Samuel Williams Jr. “We have wanted to foster a collaborative partnership with the school for some time so we are truly happy it happened.”

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Myers.

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Myers.

The council also named Ana Vazquez (pictured), of Prince George’s Community College, the 2016 winner of the Gerald King Fine Arts Award.

The award pays tribute to deceased local artist, Gerald King, who taught at Prince George’s Community College for 29 years and maintained a studio in Riverdale until his death in 2012. King was a master of Classical Realism, a 20th century artistic movement that sought to capture the beauty of the observable world through precise and skillful representation. The movement draws from the style and subject matter of Italian Renaissance masters like Michelangelo Caravaggio or Giovanni Bellini.

Bruce I. Campbell, local Classical Realist painter and former student of King, says Classical Realism is a reaction against “abstract and nonrepresentational art.” Campbell continued, “Gerald would say that modern art is selfish. You are concerned with yourself as the painter. You’re not concerned about beauty or anyone else being able to decipher it. Classical Realism is the unselfish sharing of beauty through your skillset.”

As recipient of the award, Vazquez received $500 toward art supplies and a year-long apprenticeship with Campbell. Vazquez will work with Campbell on Thursday evenings during his open studio sessions in Riverdale. The sessions feature a live model and are open to the public. Artists from as far as Gaithersburg and Annapolis take advantage of the gatherings, which gives Vazquez the opportunity to learn from dozens of new artists in addition to Campbell. “It’s a gift being able to work with other artists.” Campbell said. “We share everything, technique, critiques, it’s like a family environment and she’ll be taken under our wings.”

Although Campbell works primarily in oil paints, Vazquez will not be limited to any particular medium. “To me, it’s all drawing,” said Campbell. “It doesn’t make a difference what medium you’re using.”

Paintbrush and pencils aside, Campbell said he will encourage Vazquez to visit museums, especially the National Gallery of Art. “Gerald introduced me to copying the old masters at the gallery,” said Campbell. “Ninety percent of what I know about painting has come from copying.”

Vazquez is grateful for the opportunity to study under Campbell. She said that finding people who support the arts is a challenge. “I think everyone is born an artist. I mean, it’s all about picking up a pencil and drawing the observable world around you. But a lot of people don’t feel like it is something important to learn. I was a victim of that,” said Vazquez.

Samuel Williams Jr. hopes that the Riverdale Park Arts Council’s continued support of student artists will strengthen the bond between the arts and the local community. “We are trying to build friendships, with the high school, the women’s club, just continuing to build.” said Williams.

While Williams is building friendships, Vazquez will spend the year building her portfolio. “Ana can get whatever she wants or doesn’t want out of this” said Campbell. Look for her at the 2017 festival, where she will display her latest work under Campbell’s tutelage.