For some teenage art students, imagining a post high school career in the creative arts can seem like wishing on a star. Few of the students realize how much self sacrifice and hard work is required to make a living via self expression. But thanks to the Poultney Area Artist Guild, rising young artists are getting the encouragement and mentorship required to focus on their art.
"It often takes years of heartbreaking work to make it in the art world," said artist Melissa Kristiansen, guild member and an art teacher at Poultney High School. "I often hear stories of talented artists struggling for years and then finally having their grand debut with a gallery show."
Kristiansen said the artist guild is now helping to make a few dreams come true for photography students at the rural high school.
"The Poultney Area Artist Guild began in 2003 when a group of local and regional artists, both professional and amateur - as well as supporters of the arts - came together to sponsor art events and show locally," she said.
After establishing the guild, it then took several years for members to organize it, raise needed operating and exhibition funds, and then schedule time for the exhibits that showcase area artists and photographers.
"We finally found a home in the Colvin Building on Depot Street, across from the Red Brick Grille, in Poultney" said Kristiansen. "The PAAG gallery showcases the work of guild members but it also has an educational component."
Being a skilled teacher, as well as an accomplished artist, Kristiansen seems the perfect person to spearhead the guild's community mission.
She and other members have been extending invitations to schools around the area to especially welcome students to come, learn, and showcase their talents to the public.
For example, Kristiansen said Marissa Zarriello and Chelsea Chesnut, both seniors at Poultney High School, were the featured artists at a gallery event last week.
Both students spent the past semester working as independent study students, with Kristiansen's instruction, learning digital photography techniques as well as how to manipulate images using PhotoShop computer software. The students also learned how to develop "reflection and critique skills" as well as how to mount and frame their prints for a public reception and exhibit.
"This event was especially exciting for Marissa since she has been accepted at the Hallmark Institute of Photography and will be pursuing her artistic passion," said Kristiansen.
Many professional artists credit mentors with helping them early in their careers. So, too, with a caring instructor and mentor like Melissa Kristiansen, there's a real opportunity for teen talent in Vermont to find encouragement and personal success.
To view the current exhibit, and future displays, visit the PAAG gallery located at 19 Depot St. Students work will be on display alongside the work of guild members.