Alumni showcase artwork in Broyles


Imagine an array of detailed sculptures, thought-provoking paintings, and photographs that tell stories. Broyles Art Center’s main foyer boasts this collection of art made by Westminster alumni from 1975 to 2014.

The main idea of the show is to feature pieces made by alumni who continued to make artwork after high school. There are a variety of pieces, including photographs, wood art, and sculptures, paintings, drawings, and a graphic design book.

“All kinds of works were chosen. The alumni and art office sent emails out to all the alumni to submit any work they had done since they left Westminster,” said art teacher Lauren Sleat. “Anyone could send in his or her artwork.”

Over 20 amazing artists took the great opportunity to submit their artwork, including Courtney Clement, Claire Coleman, Caroline Oelkers, and Prentiss Smith, class of 2014 graduates. Many submitted more than one piece to showcase their talents.

“We opened it up to essentially what the artists felt represented themselves the best. There wasn’t necessarily a selection process for it; they were selecting what they thought was their best work,” said Benjamin Steele, visual arts teacher. “It was a great opportunity to have people back on campus and reconnect with the school. It was also really valuable for current students to see that there is a lot of work still being made and going on. It’s just a really good interaction – both ways, for alumni reconnecting with us but also students to see what could come later down the road.”

Sleat’s Modern to Contemporary Art History class curated the show. Once all the artwork came in, they hung it so everything visually worked well together. After everything was done, a reception was held for the exhibit, where many of the artists were present.

“I wanted to submit to the art show,” said class of 2014 graduate Prentiss Smith, “because I had been in AP studio art last year and I wanted to display what I had accomplished.” She chose several of the pieces she mailed in for her AP portfolio. Each of her submissions shares a similar black and white theme and was completed with an x-acto knife; however, the designs on each are unique.

Although some took drawing and painting, ceramics, photography, and various AP studio art courses, not every submitter had taken art classes during their high school years. Regardless, they found a love for art at some point.

“Ben Steele asked me to submit. I chose 4 photographs depicting various abandoned industrial facilities in America,” said Caroline Oelkers, another graduate of the class of 2014. “I photographed many different categories of buildings, but I chose these 4 to create a mini-series on the fall of industry. The industrial look unites these pictures, but they are all different enough to be interesting together.”

The visual arts department worked with the office of Institutional Advancement and alumni relations to set up the show. Their aim was to find a great way to display someone’s perspective and favorite styles of art.

“It was nice to collaborate and use the office of Institutional Advancement’s resources and database and knowledge about alumni,” said Steele. “Having them at reception was also nice because it created a different feeling for an art event.”

Each of the components of the exhibit is unique. Many of the artists had a theme revolving around their work. Smith concentrated on airplanes, while Oelkers concentrated on urban exploration photography, or the photography of abandoned buildings.

“The art that I make is a gamble; not only finding abandoned locations and figuring out how to get inside, but also the photographs. Often there is little to no light, and I’m stuck using my maglite to ‘light paint’ the image over long-exposures,” said Oelkers. “Lots of pictures I take look terrible, but whenever I win the gamble and come away with a really beautiful image, then it’s worth it.”

The art enthusiasts put a lot of hard work and effort in their pieces, demonstrating their self-expression, especially when art can at times be so challenging.

“I’ve taken art almost every year at school and it was always my favorite class, but art can be a very intimidating subject especially when you feel that you aren’t as talented as your peers,” said Smith. “However, if you find what interests you and build upon your ideas then you can create something that you love. Your artwork is completely your own and this is what I love about art. The rest of the alumni show is amazing because it includes artists from my graduating class and from even older and wiser graduates.”

There has been talk that the alumni show has happened before, but it has been a while since it was picked back up.

“It’s something that we’d like to do, maybe every three years,” said Steele. “Hopefully if alumni hear about it, or their friend was taking part in it, it can hopefully gain momentum and more people will want to get involved.”