teenartsA sampling of featured works from recent presentations of the Monmouth County Arts Council’s annual Teen Arts Festival — the 2011 edition of which opens with a reception tonight at Brookdale Community College.

With bureaucrats and administrators taking a palette knife to public arts funding these days, a nonprofit entity like the Red Bank-based Monmouth County Arts Council must often rely on some very well known friends.

When it came time to plan the 2011 edition of the annual Teen Arts Festival, MCAC Education Director Sandy Taylor turned for inspiration to a public figure who was taken from this world nearly two decades before some of this year’s featured artists were even born — John Lennon, alpha Beatle and composer of the stately peace anthem “Imagine.”

The most famous song of Lennon’s post-Beatles career has in turn served as the inspiration for a collection of original artworks by some 65 students of area middle schools and high schools — the centerpiece of the festival that opens tonight, and continues through Friday at Brookdale Community College.

Nearly 30 Monmouth County public and private schools (as well as a smattering of home-schooled students) are represented in this year’s event, hosted once again inside the Center for Visual Arts (CVA) Building on BCC’s Lincroft campus. The festival kicks off this evening, March 16, with an opening reception that’s free of charge and open to students, parents and the general public. Musical performances by area high schoolers will be featured during the reception, which runs from 6 to 7:30p at the CVA Gallery.

The Festival — which drew an estimated 1800 students to the gallery last year — continues between the hours of 9a and 2p on Thursday, March 17 and Friday, March 18. During that time, 35 professional artists and art educators will present workshops and master classes in disciplines that range from painting and filmmaking, to music and drama. The guest artists will also serve as evaluators, judging performances and offering critical insight to the participating students — and, while the event is not a competition, a select group of students and performance groups will receive certificates at the MCAC’s annual Arts Education Awards in May.

It’s all part of an experience that’s described as a chance “for emerging teen artists of all disciplines to come together in a creative atmosphere” — and those attending the Teen Arts Festival on Thursday and Friday can take a short walk over to the neighboring Monmouth Museum for an interactive tour of another Lennon-flavored exhibit: the traveling installation Give Peace a Chance: John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Bed-In for Peace (a preview piece on which appeared right here in redbankgreen).

More information on this year’s Teen Arts Festival — including participating students and guest artists — is available by contacting Sandy Taylor here.