High school art show reflects students' discoveries, wishes

Published: Monday, March 7 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Ceramic set of miniatures, by Levi Hafen, East High School.

For Amanda Joelle Decker, a student at Orem High School, art is a journey of "personal discovery of what I can accomplish." For her oil painting "Chip," "I challenged my skills with this display and I didn't stop until I had mastered replicating glass."

Jessica C Locke, a student at Fremont High School, also enjoys the quest to find something new. Her "Sugar Coated Iris," done with gel pen, "was the most grueling and challenging work I have ever taken on. The inspiration I got for the work was a picture I had taken at night of a type of hybrid iris that my did and I raise. The flower in the picture was so pixellated that it almost looked like candy crystals. I decided that I would use glitter gel pen and stipple the whole picture; 100 hours afterward I came out with this gorgeous work of art."

Jessica Cannon, a junior at Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy, sees in art not only a challenge to herself but also her viewers. Her acrylic interpretation of "Winged Victory" is meant to inspire. "How can anyone look at this majestic statue without wanting to fly? For anyone within the sound of my brush — it is my challenge to you to find your Nike! Find that one thing that makes you want to soar."

Every piece of art in the 39th Annual Utah All-State High School Art Show, now on display at the Springville Museum of Art, has a similar story, a similar appeal.

"This is one of my favorite shows," says Natalie Petersen, associate director of the museum. "I'm very impressed with the talent and creativity. I love seeing what strikes the students as significant, the variety of both subjects and genres."

With 340 works of art, juried down from more than 900 submissions from 98 schools, the show is one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in the country, she says.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate what is right in Utah schools," adds Virgil Jacobsen, assistant director and curator of education at the museum, "with teachers working so hard to help students develop their skills and abilities." The art shows serves as a means of honoring the best high school artists in the state for their talent, creativity and dedication, he says.

The exhibition is also a great introduction to the professional world of art, Petersen says. Going through the jurying process teaches them a lot about professional exhibitions, she says. "It's a self-esteem builder that generalizes to other parts of their lives." She remembers going to the Utah State Capitol one year when student art was being honored. "One student's mother came up to me with tears in her eyes. 'You have no idea what this means to my son,' she told me. 'It has done tremendous things for him.' It means a lot to them all."

The opportunity to display their art in a major show is fun and exciting, but there are also opportunities for scholarships, chances to meet professional artists and educators and other benefits from being selected to be part of the show.

In addition, one work is chosen from each of Utah's congressional districts to be part of a national show at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Airfare provided by Southwest Airlines allows the students to attend the opening of the exhibition.

But, while the show offers a lot to the students, it is also important for the community, Petersen says. It lets people see the results of a lot of hard work and discipline, to see positive things that teens are doing.

"I love to see the teenage perception of life as represented by the art," Petersen says. "They put it out there, without filter. High school is a time when they are struggling with who they are, trying to find their place in the world. It is very interesting to see how art is part of that."

Comments from the students reveal their outlooks, their desires, their passions.

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