Wednesday, 14 May 2014 13:18

High-school art showcased at Swift Current gallery

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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An opening reception for the High School Art Show at the West Wing Gallery in Swift Current took place on May 7. An opening reception for the High School Art Show at the West Wing Gallery in Swift Current took place on May 7.

The creative talent of high-school students from across the Chinook School Division are currently on display at the West Wing Gallery in Swift Current.

Students, their teachers and family members attended a public reception at the gallery, located in Kinetic Park, on May 7.
Art Gallery of Swift Current Director and Curator Kim Houghtaling provided some remarks about the works in the exhibition and the selection process.
“The works are involved and thoughtful and I have a particularly fun job in this process,” he said.
His aim is not to mark the students on how well they have carried out an assignment, but to simply look at the result and the visual impact of each work.
“Sometimes you’re reading a very unique personality in the touch and the configuration of the forms and the impact is significant,” he said. “So these are good works that are strong and impactful.”
He urged young artists to have confidence and to be fearless.
He emphasized there is not only a single way to create art.
“What’s good is when you authentically give a work your attention and all the ability that you have and struggle, because in that struggle you’re going to make original, expressive, truly felt art,” he said. “So boldly go and make art because you have nothing to fear. Your lack of ability may be your best asset at that time.”
According to Houghtaling the relative inexperience of the students as artists will actually result in an interesting outcome.
“The fact that they aren’t practiced professional artists means that they are struggling, working, trying to get the material to do what they want,” he told the Prairie Post. “In that struggle there is invention and dynamics that occur. The struggle might be with their medium or their abilities to draw, that kind of a thing.”
He selected around 130 individual works of art for the exhibition, representing contributions from 44 students. This year many students were doing drawings on paper about a variety of subjects and there are only two sculptures in the exhibition. In previous years there were more paintings and sculptures were better represented.
Houghtaling referred to the distance learning approach of the Chinook School Division’s Cyber School during his exhibition remarks.
“I find it kind of intriguing, this idea that the conversation goes on electronically and the artist works independently and then they get together again for the critique process,” he said. “That’s interesting in that it’s similar to the way independent artists have to work. When you’re out on your own and you got your own studio and you’re practising visual art, it’s sometimes pretty lonely.”
Jody Seidler, who is the Cyber School’s photography teacher, said it means a lot for students to have their work on display at the gallery. Four of her students are participating in the exhibition.
“It’s huge, especially considering most of my students aren’t from Swift Current,” she mentioned. “We’re talking about students that are all over the Chinook School Division. ... To have a chance for them to display in a centre like Swift Current is fabulous.”
She teaches Photography 20 and 30 to students. For both courses the students log onto a website that guides them through the coursework.
“I’m available all day long at the computer that they can chat me and ask questions any time,” she said. “They can phone, e-mail or just chat — it pops right up on my screen.”
Racquel Biem is the visual arts teacher at the Cyber School. She said the students are always surprised when their works are selected for the exhibition.
“I think they’re never sure when they do their art work,” she remarked. “They like it, but they’re always surprised when somebody else really likes it.”
Her approach towards teaching art through distance learning is to provide students with the necessary information without impeding their own creativity.
“It has to be set up so the students understand the objectives of what they have to do, yet there has to be enough freedom in there that the students can feel creative and that it’s their own artwork when they’re finished,” she said.
From year to year she is never sure what kind of art works will be produced by students for submission to the exhibition.
“This year what came out was very different,” she said. “It was more their sketching and their ink prints where the students seem to come alive. … It’s really quite interesting what ends up coming out. It’s the same course every year, it gets tweaked a bit, but in the end where the students’ passion lies always changes each year.”
The high school art show at the West Wing Gallery will be on until June 15. The gallery is open from 1-5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as Monday on long weekends.

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