High schoolers art on public display

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More than 60 Okotoks high school students got a glimpse into the life of professional artists.

The work of 50 Alberta High School of Fine Arts art students and 11 at Holy Trinity Academy are on display in the Leighton Art Centre’s annual Youth Works exhibit until Jan. 6. The exhibit consists of the art of teens in eight high schools in Calgary and area.

“I don’t get a lot of opportunities to show my art to the world,” said Mckenna Geddes, a Grade 12 Holy Trinity Academy student. “It’s not an every day where you get to show your work off. I felt pretty honoured.”

The Youth Works theme is “selfie.”

Geddes submitted two acrylic paintings for the show. One depicts her face covered in flowers, which she said represents who she’s becoming as a person. The other shows her in water, a metaphor for her swimming in her thoughts.

“They were already completed pieces that I thought were my best work,” Geddes said, adding her art teacher Sarah Johnson inspired her. “She’s definitely pushed my artistic abilities further than I thought I could go.”

Lucy Watt, an art student at the Alberta High School of Fine Arts, provided a different interpretion of the theme.

The Grade 12 student created a clay sculpture of a Windigo, a mythical creature in an indigenous legend that consumes humans through cannibalism because it’s never satisfied.

“It’s a societal selfie,” explained Watt. “It’s more of an interpretation. The legend of the Windigo is based on starvation and never having enough. It’s that idea of constantly wanting more.”

The sculpture is an emaciated ungulate with arrows throughout its body. She plans to make it into a bronze sculpture.

“A lot of the images I found show it decrepit and having injuries,” she said. “It’s hunted in a lot of ways.”

The sculpture received honourable mention by the Leighton Art Centre. The certificate Watt received is hanging on her wall.

“At the show it was interesting having people look at it and take pictures of it and have their own opinions of the piece,” she said. “It’s cool to see my art somewhere other than at school or at home.”

Watt’s visual arts teacher Paul Rasporich said she was one of two students in the school to received honourable mention. Audrey Parker also received the acknowledgment for her acrylic self-portrait “Mind and Body.”

Rasporich is not surprised.

“The quality is pretty good,” he said. “We have a diverse group of students so I wanted to represent them all. I was proud of them.”

When discussing the exhibit’s theme with students earlier this fall, Rasporich encouraged them to interpret it loosely.

“I feel like anything can be a self portrait,” he said.

“You can portray yourself as anything, as a tree, if that’s how you feel.”

Rasporich said Youth Works allows students to gain experience exhibiting their art as professionals while understanding what goes into submitting work for an exhibit.

Holy Trinity Academy art teacher Sarah Johnson said she is proud of her students’ courage to put their art on display for public viewing.

“It definitely helps them mature and realize that when they make art it’s going to be viewed and interpreted in a lot of different ways,” she said. “They come away from it with a better understanding of why they make art in the first place.”

Johnson said she is proud of the range of work students submitted, from realistic to expressionistic.

She encouraged them to select work they had already completed that relates to the theme.

“It helped to open up a lot of understanding of how it could be interpreted a little bit more broadly and more unexpected than was intended originally,” she said. “Some of the kids, as soon as I said the theme, they knew immediately what they wanted to submit that was done and some came up with something new.”

The Leighton Art Centre is open Tuesdays to Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be closed Dec. 23 to Jan. 2 for the holidays. Admission is free.

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