This month Arts Benicia presents its biennial Next Generation Exhibition, featuring works of art by students from every school in Benicia.

In an epic endeavor, Arts Benicia staff and volunteers collaborated with teachers throughout the Benicia Unified School District to produce the exhibit. Teachers at each school curated about 35 pieces, resulting in the installation of over 200 works across all art genres—painting, illustration, drawing, mixed-media, collage, 3D sculpture, digital art, and photography.

“The exhibition is always an interesting mix of artwork produced by students at every level between kindergarten and twelfth grade,” says Jeremy Throne, Youth Art Coordinator at Arts Benicia, “I can’t wait to see who, and what, will be on our walls this year!”

Arts Benicia, the non-profit organization now in its third decade, enthusiastically takes on the challenge to partner with the district and support the youth of the community, according to Executive Director Celeste Smeland. “It’s an inspiring exhibition because you see the talent from all these schools. We’re really proud of our community and we love working with our schools.”All the art pieces are professionally displayed in the Arts Benicia gallery using fine-art mounting and presentation techniques. “We treat it like we do all our exhibitions. We take this seriously,” Smeland explained, to give students the opportunity to see their creations in a professional gallery setting. “It’s wonderful to have them come in with their families and see their work in the gallery.”

An exhibition of this scope, with myriad moving parts, takes extraordinary leadership as well as teamwork. Coordinating the daunting undertaking is Arts Benicia Board Secretary Barb Duvall, who serves as the Next Generation Exhibition Project Chair.

“I’m looking forward to this wonderful event that is truly a collaborative effort in our community.” Duvall manages the project with the help of Susan Bunch, Chair of the Youth Arts Education Committee. The staff at Arts Benicia take on various roles and Duvall adds, “the event wouldn’t happen without the efforts of our educators, parents, and volunteers in the community.”

Having recently retired from teaching herself, Duvall made it her goal to streamline the process to make teacher participation much easier this year. Work began in October, when invitations to take part went out to the schools, and that was followed by establishing the key liaisons to keep everyone informed about event dates, submission requirements, and exhibition guidelines. Finally, gathering all the individual pieces and hanging the exhibit was a tremendous logistical feat.

“This year, we are thrilled to have received a Local Impact grant from the California Arts Council to support the planning and implementation of the Next Generation Exhibition,” Smeland says. “Additionally, the Wilson Family Foundation helps to support the exhibition reception and the free Family Art Day.”

The Next Generation Exhibition opens March 7 and runs through April 12 at the Arts Benicia gallery, located at 991 Tyler Street, Suite 114, in the historic Benicia Arsenal. Gallery hours are 12 to 5 PM Wednesday through Sunday. The public is invited to attend an opening reception celebration on Sunday, March 8, from 1 to 3 PM.

In addition, the next Arts Benicia Family Art Day coincides with the exhibition, slated for Sunday, March 22. Children and their families are invited to drop in between 1 and 3 PM and explore the creative world of art with hands-on projects that engage and educate. Family Art Days are free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Arts Benicia website at or call 707.747.0131.