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Art Speaks

Graduate students showcase their work and experiences in exhibition

Megan Kenealy’s and Ari Barrett’s graduate school theses explore topics close to their hearts. And the two art students are spreading messages of hope and love far beyond the confines of campus.

Megan and Ari, who are completing master’s degrees in teaching art at Bridgewater State, are exhibiting their artwork at The Ignition Space in downtown Fall River. Ari’s work focuses on climate change, while Megan’s concerns the realities of being a surrogate.

“I love the fact that not only are we showing our work to the Bridgewater community, but anyone who walks in off the street,” said Megan, who teaches at Abington High School and earned her undergraduate art degree from Bridgewater in 2006. “It’s providing that connection between Fall River and BSU.”

For the Nurture/Nature exhibit, Ari highlighted the American bullfrog, a species that scientists think can thrive amid climate change. Meanwhile, Megan takes visitors on her personal journey as a surrogate by weaving together artifacts and more traditional artwork. 

“This enriches the art and culture in Fall River,” said Cate Becker, site assistant for the Fall River Arts and Culture Coalition, which runs The Ignition Space. “Also, it’s amazing to let people see the eclectic exhibit that this is. This show is so unique.”

Megan Kenealy stands next to her artwork.

Megan, who served as a surrogate for a family member who is in a same-sex relationship, incorporated hair and medical documents alongside art made with graphite and frozen breast milk.

“I hope (visitors) realize there’s a lot of different types of family,” Megan said. “I hope they can see the love that this journey was for all of us. I hope they see the hard work that goes into it and the relationship between all of us.”

Studying at BSU and working on the thesis helped her embrace the use of unconventional materials in her art. Now Megan said she is more confident encouraging Abington students to use their creativity in class and long after they graduate.

Ari Barrett stands next to a frog sculpture she made.

Ari, who teaches at King Philip Regional Middle School in Norfolk and once considered becoming a wildlife biologist, made a series of ceramic sculptures of frogs in aquatic, desert and swampy environments to show that life will continue even in the face of climate change. She aims to inspire those who feel it is too late to save Earth.

“I just get so overwhelmed thinking about all the negative outcomes for my future children and grandchildren,” she said, wondering whether they will share the Earth with elephants, polar bears and other animals she loved as a kid. “I’m hoping people think it isn’t all doom and gloom.”

Megan and Ari discussed their thesis work with their students, some of whom may even visit the exhibition.

The two educators met in a ceramics class at BSU and went on to take every course they could together.

“Meagan has taught me so much,” Ari said. “It’s been such a happy coincidence getting to know her.”

Nurture/Nature will be on display through Jan. 6 at The Ignition Space, 341 S. Main St., Fall River. 

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