AAUW showcase puts students in the spotlight

Art students from up and down the island are experiencing the rush of a doing a show.

Art students from up and down the island are experiencing the rush of a doing a show.

Every year the American Association of University Women on Whidbey Island holds a showcase for student artists at Greenbank Farm.

The Showcase of the Arts 2008 is from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 3 with cookies, coffee and punch provided for plenty of satiate viewing.

The AAUW, which is composed of more than 100,000 individual, college and university members, strives to be a catalyst for change in lives of girls and women. The Whidbey Island branch holds the showcase each year to raise funds for educational scholarships for girls and women.

The recognition the event gives to students who excel in all mediums of fine art is one way the organization manages to give both girls and boys on the island an opportunity to do something extraordinary.

Creative process

Creating art for an adjudicated show is no easy feat. And those students who show a skilled inclination toward the inspiration, contemplation and execution of ideas will certainly stand out among the throng.

A posse of professional island artists will be on hand to judge the entries and several cash prizes will be awarded in each of the four categories.

Show attendees will also be able to vote by ballot for People’s Choice awards in each category.

Oak Harbor High School art teacher Frank Jacques said the Showcase of the Arts is the perfect opportunity for art teachers on the island to show their students what the process of being an artist entails.

“It’s an important show for island kids and gives them the time to get their skills and ideas together,” Jacques said.

Jacques said there are at least 100 pieces from Oak Harbor students in the mediums of painting, drawing, sculpture, jewelry and pottery.

“It’s a nice venue; big and open and well-attended. The art is given its due and the work is presented in a way that honors and elevates it.”

One of Jacques students, Eric Smiths, works with clay creating vases and bowls of all shapes, sizes and colors.

Smiths recently traveled to Pittsburgh, Pa. by himself to see a bowl he submitted to the National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition. His work was accepted by jury from 900 entries.

Fellow Oak Harbor student Brooks Waller was also one of the 100 artists accepted into that show for a teapot he had made.

Jacques was obviously proud speaking of his students’ involvement in that show. He explained that the exhibition is held annually in conjunction with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Convention and is juried each year by a prominent ceramic artist.

Smiths will be showing some vases and a bowl for the Greenbank showcase.

Megan Murphy has been busy.

She is submitting two pots, a vase and a place setting.

Murphy said this is the first time she is attending the showcase and expects to see a lot of different pieces and be inspired.

“It’s a good experience,”

Murphy said.

“It’s nice to see if people appreciate what I’ve done.”

She attributes Jacques with giving her the confidence she needed to feel comfortable as a ceramist.

“I think he’s a great teacher and he’s taught me a lot. He lets you do your own thing through trial and error and is supportive of everything you try to do. It’s comforting,” Murphy said.

Variety of artists

At Coupeville High School, art teacher Kim McWilliams, newly hired last year, said seeing the showcase for the first time helped her to see what quality was attainable with the students.

“It was powerful and helped me as a teacher,” McWilliams said. “It wasn’t just a bunch of landscapes.”

In the brand new art room at the high school, McWilliams had handed out “Gessobords” to the class. A “Gessobord” is a sealed hardboard panel with an acid free, acrylic coating sanded into the panel for use with oil and acrylic paints.

The Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival donated the boards and students were asked to make something for the showcase with them. Some of the students were busy early one morning staring at their boards and struggling not only to stay awake, but to be creative.

Not every student was focused similarly however.

Stacie Clarke is a third-year student and enamored of photography.

“A lot of my good photos are what we call ‘lucky shots,’” Clarke said.

She doesn’t just rely on dumb luck for her pictures, though. Clarke said she is inspired by the work of portraitist Kimberly Anderson and war photographer James Nachtwey.

“I love animals and would love to work for National Geographic Magazine one day.”

Fellow student Gary England sat huddled over a Gessobord painting a landscape. He wants to be a tattoo artist with an eye to opening his own shop one day. England has an apprenticeship already lined up with a local tattoo shop.

He is interested in pursuing his love of drawing and combining that interest by taking some art classes and some business classes at Skagit Valley College after he graduates from Coupeville

High School.

Learning curve

On another morning at South Whidbey High School, art teacher Don Wodjenski was speaking about how far some of his students have come.

“This age is a joy to teach,” Wodjenski said. “They are on this developmental cusp and you can often see the transition from child to adult.”

Wodjenski said that the students were lucky to have done a workshop with guest artist Libby Berry, an island painter who founded the New Renaissance Academy, School of Living Oils.

“She gave the students the knowledge and skills to move forward. She showed them the process of how to build a drawing using oil pastels,” Wodjenski said.

“It was a great experience and very refreshing for all of us to be exposed to a working artist.”

Nicole Parnell said she benefited greatly from Berry’s lessons.

Working from an original photo, Parnell created a pastel drawing of a clouded sky over a landscape she calls “Dream Cloud” and which she will enter in the showcase.

Parnell applied what Berry had taught her about working from the “Golden Ratio” or approximately 1.618 and applying it to the composition of her drawing.

“She made me see by using this ratio, everything falls into place and now I feel like I have these skills I never had before,” Parnell said. “It makes me excited to have made something that looks real.”

Student artist Gillian Poss works mainly with colored pencil on paper. She is one of the few students who said she would be entering the Loganberry Festival poster contest, also an aspect of the Showcase of the Arts.

Poss said she admires the surrealists, the Renaissance artists and art that features symbolism, which she uses in her own work.

“The emphasis for the poster is on nature and I’ll use a lot of color,” Poss said.

Appreciated event

The showcase seemed to act as a motivator for many of the students, giving them a deadline to finish what they had started.

Generally, all the students said submitting work for the showcase was a good way to see what the entire island of students was doing.

“The AAUW does a nice thing by organizing the event. We get to focus on the kids and getting the work out to a bigger public and they handle all the logistical stuff,” Frank Jacques said.

“It’s cool.”

This year’s Showcase of the Arts is held in honor of former American Association of University Women member Susan Blank, the previous art chairperson of the showcase. Blank died last year from a rare form of tracheal cancer.

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