Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An optimistic opening . . .

Kyle Saxton is a senior at Harrisonburg High School who is serious about his art. So serious that this Saturday he's heading up to Washington to meet with colleges on a National Portfolio Day event at Corcoran College of Art & Design.

The photograph of Kyle Saxton shown above was taken at last night's opening of the Harrisonburg High School/ Eastern Mennonite High School art show at the WMRA studios. His painting/collage is a visual representation of Kyle's reaction to studying the Civil War in his AP History Class. In it is a partial text of Frederic Douglass' "The Constitutionality of Slavery," a piece of a Civil War map, a circle, some lines. There are also some figures and a shadowy face that is obviously experiencing much pain and confusion. The piece is called "Civil."

Kyle Saxton is a "special" art student at HHS, meaning he's taken all the formal art classes the school offers, but his teachers, Kelley Shradly-Horst and Jauan Brooks, keep on teaching him. In my opinion, his teachers are to be commended.

Ashton Pease, a senior at Eastern Mennonite High School, was there with friends to take a look at his first-ever, self-developed, analogue photograph. It shows a sharply focused Teddy Bear on a wall in front of a soft-focused house.

Ashton says his father takes a lot of digital photographs of his sister, who plays several sports, so he already knew how to work in digital. Ashton says he took the EMHS class because he wanted to learn the process of working with film, and that he's found that experience "awesome." So awesome in fact, that it's made him wish he could have his own darkroom.

Harrisonburg High School first year Samantha Heitsch's quite wondrous turtle was the result of an assignment: Pick an image and draw it using dots. She says it taught her a lot about creating visual detail on the page. And, she says, she likes her turtle. "It's one of the better things I've done."

Her father, Paul, was obviously proud. "She knocks me out," he says. "Since she was little, she's had this amazing gift for drawing. She carries whole pictures in her head."

To me, last night's opening was truly, truly full of promise for the future. Not only do young people still have the urge to create; our schools still provide them with the necessary instruction, time and materials to stimulate that urge. Much credit for the show goes to Eastern Mennonite High School's Barbara Gautcher, and Kelley Shradly-Horst and Jauan Brooks at Harrisonburg High School.

And hooray for Harrisonburg's Daily News Record. City Editor Rob Longley thought a high school art opening was important enough to send reporter Jeremy Hunt (pictured right, on the left, talking with Jauan Brooks) to do a story on these young artists and their young art. And their teachers. Jeremy spent real time at the opening, looking at the pieces, talking to people, really working at finding the story. This, even though he told me he's more at home reporting hard news.

So what's the difference? In talking with Jeremy, it seemed to me that we two reporters thought of hard news as writing dispassionately about what happens, while features explore why what happens happens as it does.

There was quite a big crowd at last night's opening. And it was wonderful to have it. I do hope you know that our WMRA studios are your WMRA studios--the doors at 983 Reservoir Street are open 9-5, Monday through Friday. Come by anytime. If we're not on deadline, we who work there are always happy to stop and chat with our fellow WMRAers.

The HHS and EMHS art show hangs on our walls through February.

1 comment:

  1. Wish I could have been there, but I'll be stopping by to see the work sometime soon. It looks fantastic! Are you up for lunch one of these days, M.? Best days for me are T, Th.