By NEIL ZAWICKI

Thirteen-year-old Milton artist Tess Follensbee was a bit nervous on Thursday night at Artist in Residence in downtown St Albans. After all, it was her very first gallery show reception.

Follensbee, who works primarily in acrylic and has been painting seriously for the past three years, has seen some success through Vermont Handcrafters, a juried exhibition that holds shows at venues in Burlington, where she offered and sold her works at a booth last November.

But here at the gallery, the crowd, buffet table with wine, and the high volume of other works on display had the already shy middle schooler feeling a bit overwhelmed. Asked how it feels to be showing her work in an actual gallery, Follensbee, while texting one of her friends, answered with one word:

“Nerve-racking.”

But her middle school sensibilities mask the temperament of an emerging and serious artist. 

Follensbee has for the past two years done scenic art for the theater department at Milton Middle School, and worked with the school art teacher to design and execute a mural at the school. 

She said she’s been interested in painting since she was five, and has spent time painting with her grandfather and her dad, and recently had an opportunity to shadow Milton Artists Guild member and scenic artist Kimberlee Forney.

While she began working in oil, Follensbee switched to acrylic, and with that medium she creates vivid works that depict dramatic sunsets with silhouettes. 

The opening marked the first such show at the gallery, which will now feature a young artist between the ages of 12 and 17 each month, holding an opening at the First Thursdays. Gallery member Donna Blatchley said the idea to feature young artists came from the board of directors, and she said she’s excited to see the young artists in the space.