Tonawanda News

March 16, 2013

North Tonawanda elementary students on display at UB Center for the Arts show

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — All year long Mary Ellen Holler’s 2nd- through 6th-graders have been studying artworks by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Keith Haring. 

Every few weeks, the art teacher, who’s spent more than three decades teaching North Tonawanda students of all ages, exposes her students to a new period or style of art. She shows them how to dash-dash-dash little marks onto construction paper using oil pastels to mimic Monet’s style. They learn perspective using their math skills. They even learn to draw their own faces, using mirrors as the old masters once did.

And like these old masters, 10 of Holler’s students — and dozens of others throughout the region — will see their artworks hung on the walls of a hallowed institution as part of the Student Celebration of the Visual Arts.

Drawings, photographs and other works of art by approximately 370 students between kindergarten and 12th grade are only display from noon to 4 p.m. today at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Fine Arts Atrium at the North Campus. 

“It gets bigger every year,” said organizer and Williamsville North art and photography teacher Brad Curcio.

Holler said she submitted 10 artworks by students among her 2nd- through 6th-grade classes at Ohio and Meadow elementary schools. Spruce, Drake and Meadow elementary art teacher Melinda Wright also submitted 10 student artworks. 

The works are judged and given awards based on a variety of categories divided up by age ranges.

Holler said her classes have participated in in the SCVA for the past three years in part because in her mind, she feels they’re already all winners.

“To me they’ve all won because they’ve just tried so hard. Possibly the judges may not understand the technique I’m trying to teach them and that’s OK,” Holler said. 

She said after each unit she selects the very best examples of works in each of classes and puts them in a special show folder. From there she finds different art shows — like a recent one at the Carnegie Art Center in North Tonawanda — to submit these works.

“What it does for the students is it gets their work out into the community and a professional setting,” Curcio said. “It gives evidence of what the students can do and what the teachers are teaching.”

Holler submitted to the SCVA show examples of van Gogh-like flowers done in oil pastel, contour drawings of hands, and studies on perspective using monochromatic techniques and silhouettes, like one done by 11-year-old Carson Essenburg.

His drawing shows perspective using varying shades of the color purple.

“There are hills and then there are animals and trees on it,” he said, describing the drawing.

Carson said his favorite thing to do in art class is draw shapes and contours of figures like hands and people. His favorite subjects in school, though, are math and science, which Holler said she makes sure to incorporate in her classes.

“There are kids that may (learn) verbally and who may be good with vocabulary end of it art,” she said, pointing to a list of words describing different styles of art. “And then there are kids that are good spatially so they might be good with the math end of it. I try to incorporate that in there.”

“I keep telling them it’s OK to think diffierently and it’s OK to look at something differently as long as you’re not hurting somebody,” she added.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Student Celebration of the Visual Arts • WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m.; awards ceremony at 2:30 p.m. today • WHERE: The University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Fine Arts Atrium, 202 Center for the Arts, North Campus, Buffalo • MORE INFORMATION: Visit

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.