CENTREVILLE — A groundbreaking faculty art exhibition showcasing Queen Anne’s County art teachers is being hosted by the Queen Anne’s Centre for the Arts at 206 S. Commerce St., Centreville, from Sept. 11 to Oct. 8 and will feature a variety of artwork, including drawings, paintings and sculptures, from the talented art teachers in Queen Anne’s County Public Schools.

The opening reception for the show is 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, and is free to the public, marking the historic 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The show was originally scheduled for March 2020, but it had to be postponed due to COVID, so this summer Rick Strittmater, executive director at the Queen Anne’s County Arts Council, and Michael Bell, supervisor of visual and performing arts for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, set plans to re-launch the faculty show, along with reviving other fine arts initiatives, such as ArtScene, for the 2021–2022 school year.

While the faculty art show is not a themed show around 9/11 in any way, Strittmater and Bell spent time reflecting on the importance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and why Sept. 11 was the perfect choice for the re-launch of this faculty show.

“Celebrating the hard work of our outstanding art teachers and helping them to ‘stay artists’ despite the pandemic is important to me. Honoring those 343 FDNY firefighters and everyone who lost loved ones on 9/11 is also personal for me,” Bell said. “My wife’s childhood priest was Father Mychal Judge.”

Father Mychal was the firehouse chaplain recognized as 9/11’s first recorded casualty.

“It became personal on that day,” continued Bell. “Having lived in Manhattan and growing up admiring that NYC skyline I was devastated on that day. So, when I was asked to paint a portrait of firefighter Robert Cordice from Brooklyn’s Squad 1 for a fundraiser to help families of fallen heroes like Rob, I was more than honored to get further involved any way I could.”

Bell is not only a supervisor in Queen Anne’s County, he’s also a well-respected, renowned artist in his own right with an extensive list of celebrity portrait painting clientele. Upon completing Cordice’s portrait, Bell continued to take part in 9/11 special events, beginning with Brooklyn’s first Festival of Hope in 2002 with some of his “Sopranos” actor friends. Years later, after the 9/11 museum finally opened, he and his family began making annual trips to pay homage to Father Mychal and others.

“As an artist, there were a lot of us out there trying to figure out ways to respond to 9/11 when it happened,” said Bell, “and many of us are still finding ways to help.”

Strittmater, in addition to his role helping students and schools as executive director of the Queen Anne’s Arts Council, is also an accomplished musician who has put out nine CD’s and has performed live at the summer Thursdays in the Park concert series. Strittmater shares Bell’s passion for teachers “staying artists” and also shared his deep connection to 9/11.

“On Sept. 11, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council hosted an artist-in-residency program, called ‘World Views,’ hosting 15 artists from around the globe. The 15 artists worked in the studios in the North Tower. Most of their artwork was lost in the attack on and collapse of the towers. At least one of the artists, Jamaican-born sculptor Michael Richards, had worked through the night in the towers on an unfinished sculpture — a memorial piece dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen portraying a pilot riding a burning meteor. He was one of the many fatalities,” Strittmater said.

Throughout history, artists have often found themselves at the heart of situations of great upheaval and duress. Some, following their beliefs and passions, acted as record keepers, witnesses to our global history, some not always surviving the outcome.

“Artists and the arts will always help shape the vision and mission of our nation,” said Strittmater, adding he agrees with Bell on the importance of providing a platform for our art teachers to stay artists. “Without the arts and the artists, we are left with little but ghosts and shadows of all that has come before.”

When Bell shared the idea for reviving the faculty art show on Sept. 11 with Assistant Superintendent of Schools Amy Hudock, he said she really liked the idea of “remembering (9/11) but celebrating the staff at the same time.”

Countless organizations, businesses and fire departments across the country will commemorate this milestone anniversary through special events and activities. Support the arts in Queen Anne’s County by coming out from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Queen Anne’s Centre for the Arts in Centreville and celebrate our talented art teachers, Bell said. He hopes to make the faculty show an annual one. Various works will also be for sale.

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