EHS sophomore Amena Ahmed with art teacher Taylor Hughes, who selected Ahmed’s sculpture of a plate of food to be part of the Mercer County Youth Art Month Exhibition this month.

Elizabeth Bayley has been to plenty of art shows, but hasn’t always shown her work in them — and certainly not any of her ceramic creations. Until now.

Bayley is one of five Ewing High School students from Taylor Hughes’ Ceramics 1 class to have their sculptures chosen by Hughes to be displayed at Artworks Trenton through April 25, as part of the Mercer County Youth Art Month Exhibition. The show displays student artwork selected by 16 teachers from Mercer County schools who are part of Art Educators of New Jersey. Each teacher selects five of their students to have their works exhibited at the show.

Bayley, who crafted a ceramic fox, is the only student chosen who is in one of Hughes’ current classes.

The other works come from Hughes’ first-semester ceramics classes. A pair of seniors, Breonna McKinney and Sarah Curtiss, each have Greek pottery on display in the show. Amena Ahmed, a sophomore, sculpted a plate of food. Freshman Wiktoria Prejs sculpted a nail polish bottle slab box.

Hughes said she tried to pick some of the top projects from each of the different categories that students made over the semester for the exhibition.

“I tell my students they have to constantly do their best work because I’m always saving some of the best projects, and this is what we can do with it,” said Hughes, a member of the Art Educators of New Jersey advisory council.

She added that it’s a big deal for the students to have their art shown in the gallery. “Artworks Trenton has a really big role in the community,” she said. “I think it’s been there the last five years or so, and that helps with the reception. It’s a really big honor that we’re able to have the show there.”

Bayley was able to see her ceramic fox on display at the exhibition’s opening reception on March 11. Ahmed was the other student who was able to attend the reception. The event offered received door prizes, the opportunity to take fun pictures in a photo booth and enjoy light refreshments.

“I have been to many art shows in my life because of my mom, but it was pretty cool to walk in and see the many different Mercer County art pieces,” said Bayley, whose mother, Mel Antler, is chair of the Ewing Arts Commission. “There were people my age there and it was interesting to see what other schools are doing. The younger kids, their pieces are really cute.”

She added that there were also some paintings based on cult-favorite movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show that she found interesting.

Bayley took Ceramics 1 after missing out on art classes last year while loading up her schedule with academic requirements for graduation. She says it was a “weird” year without art in school. Thanks to her mom’s influence, she has had a brush in her hand since the time she could hold one.

“I do really enjoy art,” Bayley said. “Granted, I’ve been doing it most of my life, so it does seem to be always present. I also like drawing and painting and the feel of expressing myself creatively.”

She had previously displayed a painting and drawing in the Trenton Elks Student Art Show that is put on in conjunction with the Ewing Arts Commission, but the Youth Art Month Exhibition draws from a wider collection of student artists.

“I mostly spend my time doing painting and drawing, so ceramics I took as a bit of a challenge,” Bayley said. “I’d done one ceramics piece previously my freshman year and it didn’t go as well as planned. I took ceramics this semester in order to get more in touch with it.”

Meanwhile, Prejs was painting her nails when she got the idea for her sculpture. She had been tasked with making a slab box, but hadn’t been inspired enough by anything she saw online and didn’t really want to just copy something off the internet anyway. In that moment, she decided to try to make her project look like a nail polish bottle.

“It’s made out of this rectangular box,” Prejis said. “I sliced two inches off it on the top so you could remove it and put things in there. It surprisingly came out better than I expected it to.”

Prejis said it was quite an honor to have Hughes select a piece for entry. “Honestly I was surprised,” she said. “I did work hard on it, but I didn’t think it was that good that she would display it.”

Prejis said she has always considered herself more of a painter. She tries to find time after school every day to paint, but she also had some ceramics experience before taking the class in the first semester this school year. She took a class in it in seventh grade and also had been to a ceramics summer camp.

“I feel more confident about my artwork now that it’s actually in this show,” Prejis said. “When I paint at home, I don’t expect it to end up in this big art show.”

EHS junior Elizabeth Bayley with works of student art, including her sculpture of a fox, on display at the Mercer County Youth Art Month Exhibition at Artworks in Trenton this month.

“I think it’s really important for these kids to show their work,” said Hughes, who is in her first year teaching at Ewing. “It raises the importance of what they’re doing. It helps them understand what they’re doing is important and they should be proud of what they’re doing. Displaying it in a way that’s not just in school, or I put pictures on our Instagram page, but displaying it in a broader space that gets their artwork out shows them how appreciated they are in what they do.”

Ewing students had work displayed in the Phillips’ Mill Community Association’s Youth Art Exhibition in January and February. Hughes has also submitted work for the Clay In Mind 2017 show that will be held April 29 at Northern Burlington County Regional High School. The Clay In Mind is a judged competition where winners receive cash. Ewing has its own school-wide art show in May.

“I’d love to keep doing art shows,” Hughes said. “It gives the students something to look forward to. They’re not just making work for the class to do it for a good grade. They’re making it to showcase. Some of these art shows, people will buy their work and some of them have cash prizes they’re given.

“I’m constantly telling the kids that they’re working for something more than a grade at the end of the semester to hopefully motivate them to hopefully do really well and be excited for what they can do in the class.”

Wiktoria said she was thrilled to have her ceramic recognized. She is hoping she can take Ceramics 2 eventually, and she can even foresee herself being an art teacher.

“I’ve been thinking about majoring in art education,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure it out.”

Bayley is hopeful that she can take more art classes in her senior year, and Ceramics 2 is one that she will consider strongly.

“I am planning on taking a decent amount of art classes my senior year, since I finished my academic requirements,” Bayley said. “I would like to have more pieces in different shows like the Trenton Artworks, the Elks, the school show and possibly any others that come up.”

Hughes is hopeful that the Youth Art Month Exhibition is another way to encourage and inspire her Ewing students. She said she has enjoyed nothing but positive interactions with the students at her new school.

“For me, it’s been really exciting to watch them grow,” she said. “A pretty good population of the class is kids who wanted to take ceramics because maybe they had an interest in working with clay, or friends that have taken the class, which is great because they come in already excited to be in the class.”

She said she is also happy to see some kids who just took the Ceramics 1 to fill an elective or because they had extra room on their schedule going on to take Ceramics 2.

“It’s really cool to see kids who might not have had any interest in art—especially ceramics—but end up being very talented,” Hughes said.