The Ardsley High School branch of the National Art Honors Society (NAHS) has embarked on a much broader mission than “art for art’s sake.” Led by sophomore Tess Korten, “Awaken Ardsley” is providing an antidote to the Covid-19 blues by brightening up the windows of local businesses.
Nine works by Korten, senior Josh Fader, sophomore Hailey Finkelstein, and senior Kairu Tong, president of the 15-member group, are on display at Charles Strick’s dental office, 20 Center Street; Sunshine Bagels, 717 Saw Mill River Road; and the Ardsley Public Library, 9 American Legion Drive.
To capture the spirit of the initiative, Stephanie Rosen, AHS art teacher and the students’ adviser, gave them a theme: “Tell me what unity and compassion means to you — make art with bright colors and fun patterns.”
Some of the imaginative results were posted on the Ardsley School District’s Facebook page on April 13. Fader’s watercolor painting depicts a waterside scene of anthropomorphized frogs picnicking and playing what might be a game of Marco Polo.
Korten’s piece, which represents the beauty of unity, was drawn with paint pens, fabric-tip pens, black ink, and pencil. Stylized silhouettes of two identical heads patterned with multicolored checks, dots, and stripes mirror each other, leaning forward, foreheads nearly touching, over an abstract flower.
All students, and members of the community at large, are welcome to contribute their themed artwork. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The chosen medium must not transfer to other surfaces, as Korten and Tong are taping pieces to windows.
Korten conceived “Awaken Ardsley” just as the pandemic took hold.
“Last March  my mom and I were driving around the village, and everything was kind of dull,” she recalled. “A lot of businesses had closed down; there wasn’t much activity. Spirits were low. I wanted to benefit the village with something that I was passionate about.”
For Korten, who often draws in her free time, art is a stress reliever. So using it on a broader scale seemed a natural way to help Ardsley, too.
In December, Korten wrote to Mayor Nancy Kaboolian, asking if she thought local businesses would be open to the project.
“I thought it was a fabulous idea,” Kaboolian recalled. “I think anything that brightens up our windows and makes us feel a little better in the constant barrage of bad news we’re living through is a good thing. If I owned a store, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it… I hope that by encouraging her I helped.”
Korten took over from there.
“I just gave them a brief introduction to what our purpose is: giving this town a little more color. Surprisingly, they didn’t even question it; they just went on board with it, which was really refreshing to see.”
Korten hopes to expand “Awaken Ardsley” to more locations. She also envisions it as the first phase of what might become a community rehabilitation effort. She wants to extend it further and continue to benefit the community, she said, “but that [decision] has to come from the club and the adviser, because I don’t have the power to do everything on my own.”
When asked how she maintains her positive attitude after a year of Covid-related challenges and disappointments, Korten responded, “I’ve had a difficult time, but I’d rather look at the good in my life than the bad, and put it into creative outlets. I’ve looked for the positive in a lot of things.”