High Museum showcases local high school art

Pre-first through 12th grade students were featured in the fifth annual art exhibit at the High Museum. The exhibition opened on March 15 and closed on April 17, with a reception for the artists and their families on April 10. The featured artwork covers an extensive variety of media, such as drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, digital art, and more. Every art teacher at Westminster had about five pieces they could select to be a part of the exhibit so that each grade was represented.

“The art work is a broad range of stuff happening in our classes and things that we think deserve celebrating,” said visual arts chair and art teacher Ben Steele. “There are people who have come a long way in their process in a year and also spectacular individual pieces chosen to be in the show.”

As an affiliate school partnered with the High Museum, Westminster gets the opportunity to have its art displayed every year along with another affiliate school’s work. This year, Westminster was paired with Holy Innocents’. There are around eight schools, both public and private, affiliated with the museum.

“There are a lot of perks that come with being an affiliate school, including being in a show there,” said Steele. “That’s an exciting event to get families to a museum on a weekend to honor the great work that we are doing here.”

The school’s affiliate relationship began in the 2010-2011 school year. With this relationship, admission to the museum’s exhibitions is free for students as long as they show their student ID. Field trips and educator workshops are free as well. The High Museum supports arts education by providing the information needed to integrate the High’s exhibitions, collections, and programs into the school’s art curriculum.

“This relationship shows that the school is a leader and supporter for the arts and the city, so one part of the relationship is that were helping to support the museum through the affiliate relationship,” said Steele. “Another part is making going to the museum and using the resources there as easy as possible. We want to make it feel like the museum is an extension of our campus, whether it is getting backstage tours of exhibition design or having them go and pull out specific works on paper for us to see. The relationship is an exciting way to use a museum as a classroom.”

The process of choosing who was put in the exhibit varied for each class. Some teachers approached students about putting a piece in the show and then together they went through their portfolio and chose the piece they believed would be strongest for the exhibit.  Other teachers allowed the decision to be up to the students in art classes.

“In my class, we all selected about five to six pieces we really liked and displayed them around the classroom,” said senior and featured artist Drew Borders. “Then, everyone received three small pieces of paper and we walked around the room for about 10 minutes and nominated three pieces that we thought deserved to be in the show. After everyone had casted a vote, we gave all our papers to one person who then tallied them up.”

Having the exhibit display work from all ages puts the community on display, along with the art.

“The variety of work represented from students pre-first to 12th grade is very different, but seeing the pieces side by side shows how our visual art department is connected from division to division,” said Lower School art teacher Kevin Soltau. “Seeing the participating student artists, especially the lower school students, with their families during the reception is a great thing. There is a sense of excitement infused with a sense of accomplishment that is visible on every student’s face as they share their work with their families and friends.”

Including all ages from two different schools added a new dynamic as well.

“My favorite part of the whole experience was seeing the range of artwork represented in the show from both Westminster and Holy Innocents’,” said senior and featured artist Kevin O’Gara. “There was a great mix of mediums and styles, and I especially loved seeing the artwork from the Lower School students – they always have a truly authentic spirit to their work!”

The fact that there are so few instances where the entire community is shown together makes this exhibit that much more special.

“I think it’s nice to see the amazing work being done at every age level at Westminster,” said Steele. “We have the STEAM exhibit and a reception for student work that gets to be put in the president’s office. Those are about the only other times that I can think of that we get to see something happening from a pre-first student doing it to a 12th grade student doing it.  The connection between all of that is powerful and when you get all of those people together, it’s exciting.”

The exhibit is a chance for anyone who takes an art class at Westminster to be put on display and have their work be seen by a wider audience.

“Students who don’t normally see themselves as artists are the most interesting to watch grow,” said Soltau. “They have a change in attitude and identity when it comes to art making and it opens up so many new doors for them.”

Being able to branch out and attempt challenges is a huge part of being a Westminster student. The students that are new to art are recognized by viewers of the exhibit in addition to those in the Westminster community.

“My favorite part was seeing a lot of other student’s work,” said featured artist and sophomore Kailah Adams. “Especially pieces belonging to people that I didn’t know did art.”