HAMMONTON - Atlantic City High School seniors Armani Hardy and Amirah Hicks, both 18, spontaneously helped create a mural Thursday based on Gustav Klimt's "Tree of Life" at the Noyes Museum of Art Gallery on Second Street.

"We saw some students drawing and wanted to join in," Hicks said. After she helped draw the outline, she picked up a brush and started to paint.

A half-block away, also part of the 2013 Atlantic County Teen Arts Festival, Hammonton High School musicians, choir singers and seniors Kayla Oliva, 17, Daniel Rusciani, 18, and Rachel Kopania, 17, stopped and listened as viola, bass and guitar trio Hofenakus, an adult group, played George Gershwin's "Summertime" on the street corner. The students were headed to an 'Introduction to Guitar' workshop.

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Across the street, Egg Harbor Township High School dance and theater teacher Nancy Portnoy coached six of her top students as they took classes and had their performances and choreography critiqued by professional dancers at the studios of Paul Morris Dancexplosion.

"It's really important they get to dance with others on their level," she said.

The arts festival was a day for more than 1,000 students interested in the arts to show their work, get feedback from professionals and try something new. It was held in 15 venues around town, mostly in the Arts District along the town's main street of Bellevue Avenue, and parts of Second Street, Vine Street and Central Avenue. The area is packed with art galleries, theaters, and dance and yoga spaces.

It was the third year the event was held in Hammonton, after having been based at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township for years, said Cynthia Mason Purdie, administrator of the Atlantic County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, one of the event's presenters.

Students enjoy the freedom of walking around the downtown, she said. Each year, the event is a little different, based on what is happening in the schools.

"This year we had more students participate in film and video," Purdie said. "And in the creative writing area, both feedback sessions and workshops were crammed."

She said there are always lots of dancers and singers participating, but "I heard reviewers remarking the choral area was very strong this year."

The day was also presented by The Noyes Gallery at Hammonton, Hammonton Arts Center, Hammonton Arts District, Richard Stockton College and the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton.

Store and restaurant owners saw a benefit, especially those on Bellevue Avenue. There were lines out the door at Casciano Coffee Bar & Sweetery and at Domino's Pizza. Mary's Cafe set up a hot dog and cheeseburger cart outside, and served breakfast inside to about 25 tables of students, said spokesman Richard Alverio.

Moerder Tattoos set up a table by Stockton's Kramer building, near the NJ Transit station, and most of the stores kept their doors propped open for kids to shop.

Oakcrest theater performers, juniors Jazmine Norris, Jessica Mendez and Amber Richardson; and sophomore Babrielle Cruz, all of Mays Landing, tried a sewing project in a hall at St. Joseph High School. In that same hall, painter Ryan Van Dongen, 16 and a junior at Egg Harbor Township High School, gave wire sculpting a try. He got great results, producing what looked like a miniature version of "The Thinker."

Back at the dance studio, Mainland Regional High School dancers Ava Gadon, 15, of Somers Point, Katalyna Lorick, 16, of Northfield, and Shayna Lowenstein, 15, of Northfield, discussed the feedback they got on their performance.

"As dancers, we look for every opportunity to perform," said Lorick, who plans a career in dance. "It will make us better and our next performance better."

The judges had told them to use facial expressions more, and to point and extend their feet more. Lowenstein said they took the advice to heart.

"We'll be stretching our ankles on the bus home," she said.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:


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