At the Rochester Academy of Music & Arts, your art matters

At the Rochester Academy of Music & Arts, your art matters
Grace with Lynx

Rochester Academy of Music & Arts student Grace VanBortel shows off her Canada Lynx drawing, (Photo by Brigid Harrigan, 12/3/16)


It’s a brisk December evening, and you’re looking for something to stave away the winter blues. You heard there’s an art opening in the city, it’s sure to be bustling. What better way to keep warm?


Gallery assistant Rachel pours “champagne”

As you step onto the red-carpeted entrance, you can feel the excitement brewing. The air is filled with bristling jazz piano. Champagne bubbles and glistens like liquid diamonds under the bright lights. Art of all media lines the walls, crisply matted and framed. “This artist must be a pretty big talent,” you think.

Then, in walks a five-year-old in a faux fur stole, and you realize something is different.

You look closer. The bottles of champagne contain grape juice, and the crystal flutes are plastic. A table of hors d’oeuvres also hosts a crooked pile of chocolate chip cookies. The pianist is in his early teens.

As your eyes adjust to see reality, one thing doesn’t change—the sheer amount of talent on display.

Because you have indeed entered a showing of the city’s most gifted artists. The artists just happen to be kids.


She’s only 3! Katya Wagner poses with her “Hamburger Cutout”

On December 3rd, the Rochester Brainery gallery was filled with the art of local students, some, amazingly, as young as age 3. The show featured the work of private art students from the Rochester Academy of Music & Arts.

This was the Rochester Academy of Music & Arts’ first annual gallery event. Since opening in 2007, the Academy has grown into a community force for music education. Wanting to expand into other realms of creativity, the Academy opened its visual arts division in June of this year.

“We are so excited to give local children the opportunity to display their work in a professional space,” says Brannon Hungness, owner and director of the Academy. “We pushed for the formal setting, the live entertainment. All of that plays a big part in creating the atmosphere. This is a real, authentic gallery event that will give these young artists a huge sense of accomplishment.”


Student Brandon Bartlett provided piano music in his made-for-the-occasion Santa suit

Over 100 people attended the show, including a few news crews. The young students, all dressed in their finest formal-wear, were palpably excited. They rushed around the room to get photographed with each diverse piece of artwork. There was an impressive breadth on display, everything from realism to abstraction, oil paint to photography, papercut to painted rocks.

At the end of the day, the kids went home, feeling proud of what they had made. With arts education often brushed aside in our local schools, it’s important to remind young people that their talents don’t need to be relegated to doodling in the margins of a composition book. Their art matters. Their inspiration can change the world. Their creativity can turn a cold Rochester night into a sparkling gala.

Anything is possible.

-Brigid Harrigan is the director of operations at the Rochester Academy of Music & Arts, and the creator of the visual arts division.


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About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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