Dakota Digest - 03/27/2012
There are state competitions for almost every activity high schoolers are involved in. Now artists have one as well.
The Main Ballroom at the Watertown Events Center has been transformed into an art gallery. More than 700 pieces hang on the walls or are displayed on tables. Paintings, drawings, photos, pottery, and some things that don't quite fit into any category-it's all here. For Heather Kallhoff, this is a dream come true. She came up with the idea for Creartive. She says this is the only statewide event for high school artists, and at a time when art programs are being cut it's important to have this type of outlet.
"These kids create amazing pieces and they bring them home and share them with their parents who are thrilled by them but most likely they've gone into a box, or gone under a bed or maybe hung on a bedroom wall but never seen the light of day for anyone beyond their family, and here's their opportunity to share their talents and skills with the rest of us," Kallhoff says.
Tiospay Topa high school art teacher Kelly Bessette says it's exciting to see her students work on public display for the first time.
"We live in a relatively rural community, and I thought it was very important for us to get out here and see what other people are doing, and see what other people our age our doing," Bessette says. "We have a K-12 school and the only time they get to experience art is when they get into high school. So we don't have a lot of experience with it, but I want them to get out here and see what other people are doing and hopefully inspire them."
In addition to seeing their work on display, students have the opportunity to win prizes in three sections: painting and drawing, photography, and an open category, plus best in show. And with more than 700 entries, portrait photographer Rod Evans has his work cut out for him. He and the other judges have spent the morning inspecting each piece.
"The quality was beyond what I thought it was going to be actually," Evans says. "I was overwhelmed. There are several pieces in there that I would put in my own home, they're really beautiful. Very talented young people out there today, not just their skill level and their craftsmanship, but also their creativity and the uniqueness of the materials that they're using and everything. So it's very exciting to see what's out there right now."
Evans says the judges are also leaving each student with comments for how they can improve and grow. He says he hopes this event is only the beginning of the students' art careers.
It's not just high schoolers who are dabbling in art at this event. There are several tables set up around the large room with crayons and paper where anyone can sit down and create art on the spot. Another table houses community clay, where artists of all ages are forming pieces to add to the final sculpture. On the other end of the room is the community canvas. People leave their mark on the long rectangular canvas which will eventually be displayed somewhere in Watertown. Over at a large piece of paper hanging on the wall, David Saldana-Rico adds to the community doodling page. The senior at Sioux Falls Lincoln High School takes a break to show me his artwork.
One of his pieces is an altered book. He's taken an ordinary hardcover book, and created several pages of art inside. On one spread he has painted black and blue circles, with a red dot center, covered in paint splatters.
"I wanted to make it look like I'm puzzled in life, like struggles, you know, there's many steps in life, so circles. And I want to get the bullseye, the red dot," Saldana-Rico says.
A few pages down, Saldana-Rico has painted the edges black. It gives the allusion that the center of the pages have been torn away to reveal the colorful graffiti artwork.
"This is contrasting and color. And I wrote I love you, and some guy not wanting to show his love, but he drew it anyways," Saldana-Rico says.
Saldana-Rico says he creates his pieces rather quickly.
"Just go with the flow and don't think too much, because your process will take forever and then you will give up. But if you go with the flow, it just goes how you want it and people like it," Saldana-Rico says.
The altered book earns Saldana-Rico a third place award in the open category.
Over in the painting and drawing section, I find a piece belonging to Kate Chambers, a Senior at Sioux Falls Roosevelt. It's a drawing of a Native American woman, with a block of wood as the canvas.
"I wanted to do inspiring women in my life, and something that looks empowering. And this was one of the first ones that I stumbled upon," Chambers says. "And I went shopping at Hobby Lobby trying to find different things. And I found a wood block. And I said, you know what, I want to go through these pictures. And my mom showed me old Arizona photographers, and so I was really inspired by one of their pictures, and so I kind of morphed it off of that."
The young woman in the piece is situated off center, looking out into the distance at a slight angle. Only her head to a little ways past her shoulders is showing. She is wearing two long braids, a beaded necklace, and circular shaped earrings dangle from her ears. And from the expression on her face to the detail of her dress, she looks like she could be a photograph just scanned on to the wood. But Chambers says it's all black and white charcoal, inspired by a photo.
"It's not picture perfect. But I changed the expression on the face because I didn't want it to look so hard," Chambers says. "I wanted her to look empowering but vulnerable. She has a sense of, she has light touching her, like, you can just see it. But I changed it, and then I changed some of the values, and I wanted to make it mine, but not mine. It was inspired, but it's still my take on it."
The piece earns Chambers second place in the painting and drawing category, and the mayor's choice award. Chambers also wins first place in the open category and best in show for other pieces in the event.
It's clear, however, that for the students involved in the show, awards are not everything. On a giant piece of paper taped to one wall, students and event goers share just how important art is to their lives. For one, art is what's left when you peel away everyone's expectations. For another, art is an escape from reality. And one artist writes, "Art is what allows me to breathe."
By Jenifer Jones
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