It was not supposed to be the last day of school, but suddenly it was and Jade Sisti had to act fast. Sisti had planned a gallery night for her East Providence High School art students. It was kind of a big deal, an opportunity for the students to hang their work in three real local galleries and to have the experience of being part of a professional show. Except school was ending, months before the show was to happen and with little warning.
“I’d had a bad feeling about how things were going to go in February,” Sisti says, “so I pushed them to get their artwork in, even though it was two months early.” Sisti remembers the last day had a siege-like vibe – but for artists. “Students were running to the classroom between other classes, getting their work in as the announcements were telling them to go home. I took all the work with me in my car, which prevented it from getting trapped in the soon-to-be-locked-up school.”
Sisti has been teaching at East Providence High School for more than 10 years and runs the art club, which teaches students the business side of selling and showing art. Sisti has had some of her own success in the arts, particularly with her “red series,” which made it on episode one of “Undercover Boss.” However, Sisti’s inspiration has always been her pupils. “Building a student’s confidence in their art and own ability is no easy task, and to watch them achieve this over time is an experience I don’t think I could put into words.” So, when coronavirus hit, it seemed like all the achievements her students had worked toward throughout the school year would be cut short.
Sisti, who instills in her students that they can’t always get what they want in art (eg, types of paper, fancy supplies) and must work with what they have, took that same mindset and used it to make it work for her students. Her quick thinking and the generous support – post quarantine – of local gallery Sprout Co-Working have enabled the students to still have their day before the end of the year, although it will be a very different kind of gallery opening, one for the age of digital events and social distancing. “For my students, understand that being a part of a gallery show is a great triumph. It’s a testament to their dedication and countless hours spent on their art. They’ve worked all year to achieve this goal.”
Students from intro to art, intermediate art and art club from East Providence High School are all being featured in the show, which includes more than 20 student artists. Kendrick Dias, a junior in intermediate art class, says he uses art as a way to release emotions rather than hold them inside. For Dias, this outlet may have been stunted if it wasn’t for Sisti’s quick thinking. “You are doing great,” Dias says of Sisti. It seems that Dias’ sentiments are shared by the whole class, all of whom look forward to sharing their art with the world.
The show will be livestreamed on May 21. Find the link at motifri.com/ephsgallery