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The Future Curators program at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery opened its exhibit to the public last Thursday. The exhibit area was filled with a sense of energy. People were gathered, taking pictures, discussing beautiful works from all types of media and just enjoying themselves.

A total of 51 works make up the exhibit, all of which were chosen carefully through a painstakingly long process.

"We received countless works," said Mitchell Riter of Nichols School. "We went through and separated them into definite yeses, definite nos and maybes. The first time we went through, I think there were six definite yeses and about 450 maybes."

Mitchell said the most impressive thing about all the work was the quality of it.

"Seeing the amazing quality of work was probably my favorite thing," he said. "You don't expect it from high school students, but then you see it and you're just blown away."

The artwork was chosen based on its ability to flow with the rest of the work, so anything rejected wasn't really based on the quality, just that it didn't quite fit.

"Calloused," the name given to the 2012 Future Curators exhibition, explores human vulnerability and delves into the internal strength an individual must develop to face society's expectations. The description painted on the wall as you enter the exhibit begins with, "We are all born with a thin skin -- one of innocence. Through time and experience, a layer of armor, callouses, forms to protect us."

Two paintings stood out as a fitting representations of "Calloused."

"Dancers," an oil painting by Grace Gruarin of Lewiston-Porter High School, shows the free spirit of a ballerina in white, disembarking from the social norms and leaving the reality of the world and its troubles. As if the dark blues in the background are forgotten, the dancer is alone on stage, being her true self, lacking any inhibitions she would normally carry with her. With a multitude of rich, deep tones in the blues contrasting the pureness of the white, this is a breathtaking piece.

Another piece, "Resurgence" by Amanda Tobin of Immaculata Academy, depicts dark waters in the foreground and a bright sunset in the back. In the water stands a dark silhouette of a woman holding a baby. The artwork is an emotional piece representing her birth mother and her hope to see her again one day. A beautiful contrast of the hope in the future and the current troubles is embodied in the painting, making it perfect for "Calloused."

Amanda is not only an artist featured in the exhibition, she is also one of the 13 Future Curators who organized the event. Amanda said the experience was overwhelming.

"I look at my painting on the wall, but I still don't believe it's there! I can't even put my awe into words. It's just so amazing," Amanda said.

She was blown away by the support of her friends, family and teachers who attended the event.

"I'm one of those people who don't expect others to say 'Hey, let's go see Amanda!' I don't really think of anything I do as that amazing so I still can't believe it," she said.

As well as the magnificent works of art, the New Jazz Sextet of the Buffalo Academy for Visual & Performing Arts played in the Sculpture Garden. It was a fitting and impressive performance for the occasion.

Lindsay Kranz, the coordinator of Future Curators 2012, was very proud of the product.

"For 13 teenagers so different, all creative, intelligent and fun, they came together beautifully," Kranz said. "They met and exceeded my expectations."

Although this is only Kranz's second year coordinating the program, she was impressed with the way the students worked together. They were given a bigger space to fill this year and they accomplished the task.

"Watching everyone come together tonight was my favorite part. The culmination, the reaction of the curators and artists to the exhibition was all great," Kranz said.

The exhibit continues through June 17.

Hannah Gordon is a junior at Immaculata Academy.