North Clackamas quarantine art wins statewide awards
Students in the North Clackamas area are winning statewide awards for their well-rendered visualizations of various aspects of the human emotional experience under quarantine.
Pacific Northwest College of Art, sponsors of the Oregon Scholastic Awards, will honor dozens of students from Milwaukie and Happy Valley. Clackamas High School teacher Bonnie Kayser praised her students for a "spectacular job" working from home, creating some meaningful pieces that reflect what they're experiencing during this challenging time.
"Art has, for many students, been much more than a way to spend time during the pandemic. It has also offered a modality for processing a wide range of experiences and emotions," Kayser said. "The work created during this past year will be invaluable as an authentic, visual journal of experiences that have deeply affected all of humanity."
Ryan Cechini, a senior at La Salle Prep, found creativity in a kitchen drawer. The high school based near Milwaukie reopened for in-person classes in February, while the North Clackamas School District was granted a one-week extension to the state's reopening deadline of April 19.
Prompted by La Salle Prep art teacher Cha Asokan's challenge to see "what's in front of me in a different way" during the pandemic, Cechini started taking photos of spoons from his family's kitchen. As he looked through his lens to capture the shape and shade of the utensils, he made a discovery.
"I found that everyday objects have a beauty that is unexpected," he said.
Asokan said Ryan's work illustrates how creativity bloomed among art students during a year shaped by the pandemic, politics and racial protests. With stay-at-home orders keeping nearly everyone at home, Asokan encouraged them to use art to take them beyond their four walls.
"I encouraged external reach to my students," Asokan said. "We can, as artists, create a bigger world."
Kayser's instruction to her students also was fairly open ended. She showed them examples of myriad artists' works from both contemporary and historical periods, and they discussed how these pieces reflect aspects of experience from both aesthetic and contextual perspectives.
"To create such personal pieces, students need to be given a great deal of freedom to express their ideas," Kayser said. "They also require a fair bit of prior technical training as well as lots and lots of practice. Additionally, a tremendous amount of trust is involved, trust between myself and each student, trust between the studio class members and, most importantly, trust for the artists in themselves."
A few months into quarantine, La Salle Prep senior Mattea Felder created a digital animation mixed-media piece showcasing her feelings about the year 2020. "Quarantine Bedroom" depicts a bedroom floating in space "because I felt like I was suspended in time during quarantine," she said.
The room's decor represents what concerned her when she created the piece. There's a poster about racial equality, a digital alarm clock flashing "8:20" in honor of the graduating class of 2020, and a laptop opened for another day of online learning.
In addition to inspiring her creations, the pandemic gave Mattea time to think about her future. She decided to apply to art schools to use her skills to celebrate diversity and different cultures.
"Throughout quarantine, I feel like we as a society have been torn apart due to contrasting beliefs," she said. "I believe that art has a voice, and I want to use my art to illustrate and support important values that I and many others care about."
High school students from Milwaukie, Clackamas and La Salle earned a total of 100 regional art awards in this year's competition.
"I can't express how proud I am of the visual arts students' commitment to visual arts during one of the most difficult times in our lives," Asokan said. "They have worked hard, and it shows."
The Oregon Scholastic Art Awards Ceremony takes place at 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 26, at youtu.be/lgR-Cw1MB3c.
Oregon Scholastic Art winners include:
Academy of the Arts at Milwaukie High School
Clackamas High School
La Salle Prep
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.