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INTERVIEW: Anthony Madonna On Shining A Spotlight On The Next Generation Of Artists At Guild Hall

T.J. Clemente

Ryan Jiang's Light the Way. (Photo: Courtesy of Guild Hall)

The Guild Hall Student Art Festival (SAF) is a beloved tradition that encourages and showcases the artistic achievement and imagination of students, Kindergarten to Grade 12, on the South Fork of Long Island. Entering its 29th year, the Student Art Festival continues to evolve, even through the COVID-19 crisis.

A conversation with Anthony Madonna, Guild Hall's Patti Kenner Senior Associate for Learning and Public Engagement, not only shed light on this year's festival, but on a trio of major events happening in early 2021. Madonna said, "We at Guild Hall are excited about all three: the Student Art Festival, Create Your Own Comic Book, and Stories and Crafts with the East Hampton Library."

He started by talking about the festival. "As a celebration of both Guild Hall's 90th anniversary and the centennial of the Village of East Hampton, Student Art Festival 2021: Past-Present-Future looks at both our shared past and an imagined future. Through the practice of art and design, ranging from the imagery of natural growth and metamorphosis to Futurism and science fiction, students across the East End will collectively produce an exhibit that reflects our past, acknowledges and celebrates our present, and imagines a changed and hopeful future. We are hoping to involve as many of the 2,000 students from the schools."

The past few years have seen many progressions combining "primary and secondary students' artwork" into a collective show, giving awards to high school artists, and connecting the students' work through a central theme. This year, the Festival continues to grow with the addition of a Remote-School Artist-in-Residence Program. Madonna explained that over the past three months, Guild Hall has paired several artists, all whose practice naturally fits within the Past-Present-Future theme, with local public schools to develop projects to be exhibited at the Festival. Artists and schools include Scott Bluedorn and East Hampton High School's Architecture & Sculpture classes, Megan Chaskey, Jeremy Dennis and Bridgehampton High School's Studio Art Class, Ellen Frank and the East Hampton Arts Honor Society, Cindy Pease Roe and Amagansett School's Elementary students, Almond Zigmund and Springs School and East Hampton Middle School. As Guild Hall's Patti Kenner Senior Associate for Learning and Engagement, Madonna will also participate. "We are really excited about this," Madonna said. "The exhibit will be opened to viewing at Guild Hall with reservations for times to view available on the website - as will be the complete collection for viewing online." Past-Present-Future will be on view Saturday, January 16 through Sunday, February 21, 2021.

Madonna is also excited about the new five-week Loot Comics workshop at Guild Hall. He said, "We are calling it Create Your Own Comic Book." It starts on Thursday, January 21 and will run through Thursday, February 18. Madonna noted, "This hour-long weekly virtual workshop caters to kids 8 to 12, and explores the drama and thrill of storytelling and character development through the art of comic books."

He explained that by reflecting on their own pasts, and learning the genesis stories of famed superheroes and comics, children will inhabit and imagine characters and fanciful futures - resulting in a comic book of their own creation. Guild Hall selected Brooklyn-based Loot Comics because it is known for being very kid-centric. That means only allowing adults into the inner sanctum if they are accompanied by kids, and offering monthly memberships that enable children to meet with artist mentors, borrow comics from the copious library, and create art to their heart's content. He explained, "Of course, we are doing this virtually, but the kids can come by and pick up the supplies at Guild Hall. During the virtual Guild Hall sessions (which is limited to 15 participants), children will delve into the world of superheroes and far-off places- reading, writing, acting, and illustrating the genesis stories of various heroes. Most importantly, the children will have an opportunity to create their own imaginative and action-packed comic book through the lens of their own lives."

This will all be supervised by accomplished performing artist, writer, and storyteller, Joseph Mann - aka "Professor Joe" - who grew up in the art world, and has spent most of his life learning illustration, painting, graphic design, art history, and art education. With a deep knowledge of comic book art, and a high-energy personality, he leads Loot Comic's educational efforts.

Madonna stressed, "All sessions are led remotely via Zoom. Each child is provided with a kit of materials for the workshops, available for pick-up at Guild Hall the weekend of January 15." Sessions will take place from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The third 2021 Guild Hall extravaganza is Stories and Crafts with the East Hampton Library. It is for ages three and up and will be held on Mondays for three consecutive weeks, beginning January 25. Madonna said, "Guild Hall will present a family hour, with Ms. Anna Healy of the Library reading a children's book, followed by a related hands-on craft project. The sessions will be held on Zoom, there are take-home art supplies available to participants for pick up at Guild Hall the weekend prior to each session."

Madonna added, "Anna Healy is new to the East End. She has taught art classes for children and adults at the East Hampton Library, Golden Eagle, and Guild Hall. Prior to bringing art and stories to families in East Hampton, Anna taught in schools, libraries, and cultural institutions in both Oklahoma and the greater Chicago area. The one-hour classes are free and take place from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on January 25, February 1, and February 8. Pre-registration is required."

Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, visit www.guildhall.org.

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