High school students get creative

Art: Youth exhibit reveals a variety of youth talents at Okotoks Art Gallery

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 01:48 pm

Alberta High School of Fine Arts student Jesse Armitage showcases her art displayed in the Okotoks Art Gallery. Okotoks high school art students have their pieces exhibited in the gallery until April 19.Alberta High School of Fine Arts student Jesse Armitage showcases her art displayed in the Okotoks Art Gallery. Okotoks high school art students have their pieces exhibited in the gallery until April 19.
Alberta High School of Fine Arts student Jesse Armitage showcases her art displayed in the Okotoks Art Gallery. Okotoks high school art students have their pieces exhibited in the gallery until April 19.Alberta High School of Fine Arts student Jesse Armitage showcases her art displayed in the Okotoks Art Gallery. Okotoks high school art students have their pieces exhibited in the gallery until April 19.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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A group of high school students are learning what it’s like to be a professional artist.

More than a dozen teens from the Alberta High School of Fine Arts and Holy Trinity Academy art programs put together a collection of their best work to display in the Okotoks Art Gallery’s large gallery. The exhibit is titled Freedom: The social, symbolic and senses of freedom.

The Grades 11 and 12 students are showcasing a number of art mediums including paintings, sculptures, pencil drawings and multi-media and unveiled it to friends, family and community members during an opening reception on Feb. 28.

Holy Trinity Academy Grade 12 student Marissa Gruenke said this is the first time her art was featured publicly and was surprised that one of her pieces already sold during the opening reception last weekend.

“It feels really good,” she said. “There’s all these professionals that are striving to get a show and for us to get one is really exciting for the second year in a row.”

The Okotoks schools initially teamed up last year to put their work on display at the gallery. Both years, it was the students who took the initiative and submitted an application to the gallery that included an artist statement, resume and sample photos, said Gruenke.

“You have to do all the preparation,” she said. “It’s more rewarding because you get more out of doing all the work. You get the big gallery show and everybody puts in their best stuff for this art show.”

Gruenke contributed six pieces to the exhibit this year including three paintings, a ball-point pen drawing, a sculpture and a multi-media piece.

Alberta High School of Fine Arts Grade 11 student Jesse Armitage created a graphic drawing of a heart with chains around which she calls “Freedom of Love” and enjoyed watching people look at her piece and make comments during the opening reception last weekend.

“It was a really good experience,” she said. “My dad is an artist and has had a couple of pieces in galleries.”

Armitage said this is her first time displaying her art in a public gallery and finds it’s an important step in her dream to become a professional artist.

“I want to get myself more out there,” she said. “I want to put my artwork out there and get it recognized a little bit. I want to go into art as a career.”

Holy Trinity Academy art teacher Tanis Klein said the experience is all about showing students that they can reach their dreams as artists.

“It’s a valuable experience because some of them are going to art school,” she said. “They are looking for opportunity that will bring them even higher than what’s the average. They want to shine, they want to get out there and they want people to see their work.”

Klein said having the students’ art displayed in the public gallery connects them with the community.

“They get to sell their work and see what it’s worth in the real world in the public eye,” she said. “I feel very proud of them.”

The showcase also helps diminish societal stigmas that reflect on youth in a negative light, said Klein.

“Sometimes students are stigmatized as being lazy or not being able to achieve really high results but that’s not true,” she said. “When you give student an opportunity and you believe in them they can do anything. They can do what an adult can do.”

Janie Zwack, the Alberta High School of Fine Arts art teacher, said the exhibit is a rare opportunity for students to display their talents in a public setting. Most often, high school work is kept within the walls of the school, she said.

“There’s amazing talent here in Okotoks and our young artists are so strong in this area and so what a great opportunity for them to display in a professional gallery,” she said. “It’s a wonderful collection of mixed media.”

Zwack said she is proud of the students for putting so much work into getting their art in the public eye.

“They’re the ones who took the initiative to make this happen,” she said. “It’s completely student driven. They’ve had to go through the full process.”

Freedom: The social, symbolic and senses of freedom is at the Okotoks Art Gallery until April 19. For more information go to www.okotoks.ca/culture


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