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Contest open to young artists; art grads needed more than ever

Students in Grades 6 to 8 invited to submit work by June 9 for June 14 SMC art show; prizes available
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Samantha Lance, St. Mary’s College graduate and Toronto art curator, and Adriano DiCerbo, SMC art teacher, admire a watercolour painting in progress by Gracie Agawa, St. Mary’s College Grade 9 art student, May 25, 2022.

Art students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 are invited to submit samples of their work to be included in a separate exhibition and contest within the annual St. Mary’s College art show to be held at the Second Line East high school beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14.

Students have until 3 p.m. Thursday, June 9 to submit their drawings, painting or digital art work with their identification and contact information in person at SMC’s main office.

While the SMC art show is an annual event - featuring work by artists from Grades 9 to 12 and including not only visual art but also musical and dance performances in one night - this year marks the first show and contest for students in Grades 6 to 8.

The contest is the brainchild of Adriano DiCerbo, SMC art teacher and Samantha Lance, an SMC graduate now pursuing a career as an art show curator in Toronto.

“Adriano approached me with this idea. He wanted to get the ball rolling on this and try to attract kids' attention to this. We came up with the title Spring Back To Life, to get students to think about what inspires you about this new season?” Lance said.

That includes:

  • What images of spring best represent your personal connection to this season?
  • What moments of spring do you cherish?
  • Are there certain aspects of spring (flowers, plants, landscapes, animals) that hold a special place in your heart?

The contest poster has been designed and will be sent out soon to parents and teachers across the H-SCDSB system.

DiCerbo hopes word will get out to art students in Grades 6 to 8 students in other school boards.

Students and parents can contact DiCerbo by email

Lance will judge the Grades 6 to 8 art show.

“I first got immersed in visual arts in Grade 10 with Mr. DiCerbo’s class and then I started helping with the arts festivals from Grade 10 to 12 and I realized, while curating the work, that art is what I wanted to do as a career,” Lance said.

Lance graduated from SMC in 2017 and went on to study art for four years at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art & Design - OCAD University. 

There she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Criticism and Curatorial Practice, learning how to organize art shows at galleries, museums, art shows and festivals. 

She plans to attend the University of Toronto in September to begin a Master of Curatorial Studies program.

At OCAD, she was inspired by the work of many artists including Vincent Van Gogh, American photographer Nicolas Bruno and Christian painter Akiane Kramarik.

“After I graduated from high school I came back to help curate the arts festival at SMC. Every year it was nice to see the work and the talent students brought to the table,” Lance said.

“I appreciate art history and love looking at the different types of media people bring into their art. When I go for my Masters in Toronto I want to support local, national and international artists by showcasing their art,” Lance said, adding she’ll always enjoy keeping in touch with the Sault arts scene.

Admission to the June 14 SMC art show is free for kids, $10 for adults.

Proceeds from admission go to Tumaini Afrika, a Sault Ste. Marie-based, non-registered group of volunteers dedicated to working with children and women in Kenya in such spheres as education and nutrition.

“After COVID, everybody needs this art show,” Lance said.

Both Lance and her high school art mentor DiCerbo spoke of the importance of art and art education for kids despite the heavy emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math in schools.

“Art speaks when words can’t,” Lance said.

“Art gives anyone - students, young and old - to speak about their background, their culture and their response to everything that’s happening in the world in their own way, it gives them that freedom to do that. That’s so critical, to express yourself, and to have that confidence.”

As for exposing younger students to art at an early age, Lance smiled “if we nurture this at the beginning in younger students we could be fostering the next Monet or Van Gogh.”

“I believe in having a well-rounded education. Yes, science and math, but the arts as well,” DiCerbo said.

“That enables students to have creative skills, critical thinking skills and they need those opportunities to be self expressive. It’s an incredibly valuable skill for the 21st Century, more than we realize. It helps us to connect with nature and each other. An arts festival is a celebration of when we come together and celebrate creativity.”

“There are jobs out there for creative people,” DiCerbo said.

“They're just not as visible as the teacher, the doctor, the dentist. There are so many creative people behind the scenes working in traditional and digital media, architectural studies, the business world needs creative thinkers. They’re needed.”

“Imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower. What if the Mona Lisa vanished? It’s priceless. These are iconic pieces of art that help define who we are. The Group of Seven helps define who we are. Filmmakers, musicians give us a sense of identity and belonging. How can we possibly take that out of our world? We need more of that particularly during these times more than ever before,” DiCerbo said.

“Hopefully we get a lot of submissions,” Lance said.

“We’re not expecting students to donate a huge painting or drawing, but it'll be exciting to see what comes in.”

Lance said she hopes it will be an encouragement for kids to start building a portfolio and consider a career in art.

It’s late in the school year but kids can submit work they’ve done earlier in the current school year.

Prizes of $100, $75 and $50 will be awarded to first, second and third place winners in the Grade 6-8 show and competition.