Maddie Barry said getting accepted into Cab Calloway School of Arts in 9th grade after being rejected the previous year was the biggest win of her life.
“From there I’ve just been able to grow because I’ve been surrounded by so many amazing artists,” she said.
Now a senior, her high school experience hit a peak Thursday night when Barry hosted the opening reception at Cab of an interactive art exhibition she curated.
Dubbed the “Hand Gallery Interactive Experience,” it contained works from dozens of students depicting hands in some fashion.
Hands are a universal symbol beyond race, gender or sexual orientation that show a wide range of themes in artwork, Barry said.
Some of the pieces depicted hands reaching out for help, curled in pain, relaxed in rest, aggressively punching and other arrangements portraying emotions.
A few of the pieces used hands to depict more complex ideas like eating disorders, ADHD and the juxtaposition of good and evil.
Barry spent about a month choosing the artwork for the gallery, which she then arranged in the way she felt best told the visitor a story.
The artists used a wide range of media: sculpture, charcoal pencil, water colors, graphite and more.
Some of Barry’s selections were three years old. The most recent piece was created a few months back.
Her love for art came from a passion she shared with a close friend.
“We got into drawing dragons, and that was the really dumb reason I got into art,” she said. “But I just couldn’t stop and then all of a sudden I fell in love with art.”
The two-hour opening night drew support from friends, faculty, classmates and parents.
“It’s really cool because a lot of these were made by my classmates and we worked really hard on them,” said ninth-grader Natasha Colman. “It’s really inspiring to see them.”
She the different art pieces from student in various grades made it a fun challenge to identify the artist’s message.
“I love how there’s no descriptions on any of them, so you have to come up with your own interpretations,” Colman said.
Her favorite piece was found on the back wall: Two bold, colorful hands with a hazy backdrop containing yellow, green and brown.
“The colors are really cool and I love the craftsmanship,” Colman said. “I also like how they had a ton of layers of colors in the hands and background.”
Bias in art museums
The gallery was part of Barry’s senior-year AP Art research project, which required students to “find a gap” in something art-related.
“My gap is that curators of museums are very biased towards certain things,” Barry said, “like male artists, European art and other very specific things, and then they make museums based on those biases.”
The back wall featured six works that drove the interactive piece of the show.
In between each is a QR code that brings viewers to a survey.
The survey included a grading scale to indicate how much someone enjoyed a piece, as well as a section to submit how the viewer interpreted the art’s meaning.
“Hands can have so many meanings and the things I take away from an art piece can be vastly different than what anyone else takes from it,” Barry said.
Additionally, demographic questions were asked, such as race, gender, sexuality, age group and whether the viewer attends Cab Calloway.
“I want to see if there’s any patterns or correlation of how someone interpreted the art and how much they enjoyed it,” Bary said.
“I want to see things like if a visual arts major has more things to say than like tech majors. I want to see what overlaps and if you don’t go to Cab, what are your thoughts on it?”
Barry is currently applying to colleges and hopes to attend Rhode Island School of Design.
She loves illustration but is leaning towards a career in graphic design.
“Graphic design is where a lot of money is and I find a lot of joy in drawing graphic design,” she said. “I’ve been doing the school yearbook and I’ve done so many page spreads and I just love it. It’s so much fun for me because I feel like I’m problem solving.”
Barry’s show will be on display through Feb. 12.
The exhibit is open from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at Cab Calloway School of the Arts, at 100 North Dupont Road in Wilmington.
To view the gallery virtually and take the research survey, click here.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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