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Students host annual public art exhibition

BRADENTON — What do fish, Tinker Toys and Lady Gaga have in common?

They are some of the subjects featured in the 20 paintings in this year’s Art on 34th Street exhibit, created by art students from Bayshore High and Lee Middle schools. For four years, the tall 4x8 paintings that sit on the edge of the high school lawn have been an annual treat to passers-by who enjoy seeing the creativity of the students.

Even with school arts funding the lowest in years, that hasn’t stopped the students from exhibiting their work. They have the community to thank for that.

The exhibit takes roughly $500-$600 a year to present.

Some items, like paint, were donated this year. Sponsors also help with other costs. This year’s sponsors are Rose Bay Real Estate and All Phases Welding and Fabrication.

“It would be really hard to do this without some backing,” said Bayshore High arts teacher Kathy Cocciolone. “Funding has been really tough. For the last two years, we’ve raised all our own money.”

Grants and community art contests the students enter help raise the rest of the money to keep the art classes and projects like the 34th Street public art exhibit running.

The exhibit runs along Bayshore High’s 34th Street entrance. Ten of the paintings are from the high school; the rest are from Lee Middle. Collectively, the ideas, painting and installation of the boards are the work of more than 100 students from both schools. During the four-month project, students learn about ratio and gridding artwork on a large scale, Cocciolone said.

The exhibit includes Nikki Mouawod’s gold fish. It’s the budding 11th grade artist’s first solo board. The 18-year-old said the exhibit gives the students a chance to show their talents to the public. Tyler Dent, a ninth grader, loves that idea. He’s worked on five boards for the street display, including one with a guitar and the tinker toys. To him, this is more than a class grade.

“I think it’s good to show people outside of school how important art is in education,” the 15-year-old said.

Besides learning the fundamentals of art, teamwork is another important element, said Lee Middle art teacher Georgette D’Amelio.

“It’s a real life experience for them,” D’Amelio said. “We try to push that aspect as well.”

The paintings will be up until fall. Each year, both schools receive letters and phone calls from the public about how much they like the work.

“Everyone enjoys driving by and seeing it,” Cocciolone said. “It’s just uplifting,”