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Students reflections, passions on exhibit at Oakbridge Academy of Arts annual show

| Thursday, May 17, 2012, 11:21 a.m.
'Airship Journey' a watercolor on board by Emmanuel Elderkin
Valley News Dispatch
'Airship Journey' a watercolor on board by Emmanuel Elderkin
'A View of Paradise', an airbrush by Jessica Nissley
Valley News Dispatch
'A View of Paradise', an airbrush by Jessica Nissley
'Counter Part' a photo transfer by Austin Kuffel
Valley News Dispatch
'Counter Part' a photo transfer by Austin Kuffel
'Alone' an oil painting by Aubrey Borowitz
Valley News Dispatch
'Alone' an oil painting by Aubrey Borowitz
'Trois Heures' an oil painting by Aubrey Borowitz
Valley News Dispatch
'Trois Heures' an oil painting by Aubrey Borowitz
'Away', digital photography by The Cypher
Valley News Dispatch
'Away', digital photography by The Cypher
'Scottish Dusk', digital photography by Lydia Ferber
Valley News Dispatch
'Scottish Dusk', digital photography by Lydia Ferber
'Modern Architecture' an acrylic/pen by Judy McCormick
Valley News Dispatch
'Modern Architecture' an acrylic/pen by Judy McCormick
'Spring Life' digital photography by Kierah Cattley
Valley News Dispatch
'Spring Life' digital photography by Kierah Cattley

If you have passion for something, Jimmy Edwards believes, you have to share it.

That's why, he says, shows like Oakbridge Academy of Arts' annual spring event, through June 4 at the school in Lower Burrell, are important.

"You can be the best at something, but if you keep it to yourself, no one will know about it," says the Penn Hills resident who is in his third term at Oakbridge. He aspires to be involved in the comic-book industry, and his work in this show, done in watercolor and pen, reflects that with his re-creation of Frankenstein and tribute to "The Joker."

Because of the proliferation of social networking, there is a danger that not many people will have the opportunity to see a student's work in person, says second-erm photography student Tony Arcurio of Brackenridge, who offers a reflection on the Tarentum bridge. An exhibit like this makes that possible, he says. "You get to meet the artists and photographers themselves. You don't have to use Facebook or Twitter."

There's something about art hanging on a wall that makes people look longer than if it were just in a book or on a web page, adds Tye Cypher of Winfield who, with fellow student Lydia Ferber of Russellton, has organized the exhibit along with school officials.

"It's a good experience to see the response your work gets from complete strangers," says Cypher, who has three digital-photography prints on view. They include the unveiling of the Mario Lemieux statue and a commentary about permanency with a shot of an abandoned Lawrenceville building.

Ferber's photographic entries reflect a recent 14-day adventure through Scotland, Ireland and Paris. She loves capturing beauty that is overlooked.

"Art is what you see as art. No one has the right to tell you differently," she says. "It is my escape. It makes me feel good, like nothing else matters except expressing my thoughts and emotions in a piece."

Exhibits like these give students insight into how their work is perceived by others, says Kevin Ritchey, advisor to the student-service committee at Oakbridge. This year's spring exhibit is a more diverse offering, with 140 photographs, paintings and drawings, he says.

"The talent can be quite surprising, even from the newer, less experienced artist," he says. "Given the freedom to create can not only be fulfilling, but can bring out talent the students themselves didn't know they possessed."

Second-year student Judy McCormick of Loyalhanna Township likens art to the universe. "It has no boundaries or limitations," she says. She is represented with two architectural pieces, one in acrylic and the other in graphite pencil and pastels.

"I hope people realize and absorb the intense detail in my work, because that's what I concentrate on the most," she says.

Emmanuel Elderkin of Upper Burrell, who has acrylic, watercolor and mixed-media pieces hanging, simply enjoys creating. "It makes my brain feel good to see everything in the world and add to it," he says. "Art is the core of being human."

Hillary Pitkavish of Tarentum, a fourth-term student, enjoys the happiness creative expression brings her and, hopefully, others. "I enjoy the different styles, eras, techniques, all the variety. Knowing that our society has variety makes the world go around, and me an incredibly happy being," she says. She has explored watercolors, acrylics and pen and marker with her three pieces, including a tribute to the late leader of the post-punk band Joy Division in "The Tortured Soul of Ian Curtis."

"I like seeing what each person can produce using their imagination and creativity," says Kristin Booth of New Kensington, who is entering her fourth term. She has two digital photographs on display, an elephant at the Pittsburgh Zoo and a tower in Erie.

"I usually enter nature subjects, so when people look at the photographs I hope they say, 'I wish I was there,' " she says.

Drew Kerr of Natrona Heights, who is preparing for his internship period at Oakbridge, would love to write and illustrate children's books one day, and design promotional pieces and graphics for his favorite hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Art is something I have always found makes me relaxed. I can escape everyday stresses and just kind of focus on my sketches," he says. This exhibit includes the cover he designed for his children's book, "Thaddius is Hungry."

Seventh-term student Ashley Doutt of New Kensington, who hopes to have a career in travel photography and/or photojournalism, has displayed three experimental-darkroom prints of cemetery angels.

"Art gives people a chance to stop, to be still for a moment and, hopefully, see the beauty that's in ordinary objects they see everyday," she says. "That's what I would like people to take away from my work: a recognition that beauty is all around them, waiting to be seen."

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