A virtual extension of the Festival of Young Artists, hosted by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, is giving student artists a chance to show their work in a year where those have been few and far between.
The 2021 Adirondack Trust Company Festival of Young Artists online gallery recently went live with an exhibit called “Metamorphosis.” It brings together more than 80 works, including visual art, poems, dances and songs, from local students.
One such student is Alyssa Gangaram, a junior at Schenectady High School, who was awarded the distinction of FOYA 2021 Outstanding Artist/Visual Arts for her digital artwork called “Change: Hope.”
It features two figures standing back to back with fishbowls over their heads and fish swimming around them. Gangaram created the piece in May of 2020, just a few months after the pandemic started.
“At that point, I really felt lost with what I was going to do in the future. I didn’t even know what was coming in the next few weeks. It was really uncertain and I could sense that from my family and from my friends and through online, through messages we were sending it was really evident that we were all kind of struggling so I use that piece [to] try to find hope for myself,” Gangaram said.
She has been creating art from a very young age and only in the last few years turned to digital art.
“I think for sure digital art is the thing I’m going to be doing for a long time because with the times changing I can see a lot more opportunity in digital art and I also really enjoy it,” Gangaram said. “I would love to go to college for it and do it for some sort of living. I can’t see any of my future without art being a part of it.”
She added that she was both shocked and honored to win in the visual art category, especially knowing how talented some of the other artists who entered are.
It’s a notion that Dennis Moench, the senior director of education at SPAC, can second.
“The level of talent and creativity that the students demonstrated in their 300-plus festival submissions made the reviewing process incredibly satisfying, and it made the decision-making more difficult than ever. Knowing the many unique challenges that most students continue to face as a result of the pandemic, we were especially inspired this year by the strength and resilience that they showed us in their creative works,” Moench said.
That can be found in “Unvanquished” a poem from Niskayuna High School sophomore Pallavi Datta, who won in the literary art category, and who also won in the visual art category last year. The poem, which stretches across five stanzas, starts:
“If we sifted through the faded dust of our ancient past
in the long lost fact and fiction blurred into folklore,
we might see how we built castles made of sand,
waiting to be washed away by the sea of time,
daring to defy our destiny, choosing to overlook our fate of oblivion
relentless, resilient, resolute”
Datta wrote it in January, shortly after the presidential inauguration and it was inspired by everything from books (namely “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari) to the news cycle.
“I think lately with the pandemic and recent current events there’s just been this constant barrage of bad news and sometimes a narrow view of what’s going on in the world without that much perspective. As I continue to learn about world history, it gets easier to take a few steps back and then a fuller picture comes into view,” Datta said.
The poem doesn’t get into specifics when it comes to historical or current events, yet it is filled with vivid imagery that speaks to the importance of truth. Datta writes in the fourth stanza:
“The absence of dissent, despite fear, is still complicity
Truth trembles in the face of silence and willful ignorance”
The writing process was challenging, perhaps because poetry is just outside of Datta’s writing comfort zone. However, the sophomore said she was honored to be recognized in the Festival of Young Artists.
“I think it’s so inspiring and motivating to also see all of the other works and interpretations of this theme,” Datta said. “I think when you’re working on something whether it’s art or writing, it’s hard to see or visualize the final product or result. It’s so cool to have something you created on a t-shirt or on a fancy website . . . When it’s just a blank page, that’s not something you’re even thinking about.”
Jayda Chance, a Schenectady High School ninth grader, received the 2021 Outstanding Artist Award/Performing Arts for her singing performance of “Home” from “The Wiz.”
To view Chance’s performance, to read “Unvanquished” or to see the other student works in The 2021 Adirondack Trust Company Festival of Young Artists online gallery visit spacfoya.org.
The three category winners received $500 to further development of their craft.
SPAC plans to host a live, in-person Festival of Young Artists on June 5, featuring more than 100 students working in collaboration with the modern dance company Pilobolus. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.