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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High students’ artwork shines from shows to streets

Aug 03, 2022 07:37PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High junior Lukas Rohde, who was elected to serve as the school’s student body artist, recently created the 2022-23 school T-shirt design. This fall, each grade level will receive their own Husky shirt.

“I showed our school pride and theme with the T-shirt,” Rohde said. “It was cool to be able to do that. We can use the same design for marketing or anything we need.”

Rohde has been recognized for his artistic talent at his school’s art show, Canyons School District’s high school art show and at the 50th annual Utah All-State High School Art Show.

Hillcrest High art department chair Kari Bennett said Rohde had two pieces selected for the all-state high school art show that selects artwork on “talent, originality and enthusiasm” to display in the Springville Museum of Art.

“It’s a rarity that students get more than one piece in Springville,” she said, adding that eight other Hillcrest students’ artwork was displayed. “It shows our kids are working hard and doing some good, thoughtful pieces.”

The exhibit at Springville Museum of Art included 335 students’ artwork, selecting from the 1,063 entries submitted from 108 high schools.

Two students, senior Connor Nichol and junior Emma Cecil, also had their artwork selected for Utah’s traveling exhibition which will showcase their pieces throughout the state.

In addition to shows, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate art students also have portfolios and solo exhibitions on a sustained investigation or topic. AP students have about 15 images supporting that theme, while IB students’ portfolio typically are around eight pieces, Bennett said.

“The concept they choose is their own. They curate the exhibition, picking and choosing the pieces that they feel are strong works that support their intentions, and then they decide how that's going to be displayed,” she said.

This year, five Huskies held solo exhibitions.

“We had some really strong ones,” Bennett said. “One student focused on alcoholism. She comes from a background of living with an alcoholic, so her entire exhibition was based on that perspective. She shared what it’s like to live with an alcoholic and the repercussions of that and some of the things people don't see on the outside. She painted a self-portrait on a door and she's sitting down at the bottom of the door with her hands kind of wrapped around her knees and her head is by her knees. She built a doorframe and put the door in, so in her exhibition you actually walk through the door. On the front of the door, it just looks like a normal door, but on the backside of the door is her sitting leaning against the door. It’s really creative, walking through the door into her exhibition and then seeing her when you close it.”

That exhibit included a piece with a guitar and a song her alcoholic family member would sing, “but it was the song that she hadn't heard for many years because he doesn't play anymore because of his alcoholism,” Bennett said.

Another piece was one that she did with her sisters.

“They actually took bottles of alcohol and threw them at a canvas and then kind of responded on the canvas with marks that kind of represented their frustration,” Bennett said. “In a text explaining the piece, she wrote that they’ve dumped bottles of alcohol down the sink, in hopes that it would stop them from drinking. She also said that she and her sisters came together while doing it to show the mark alcoholism has left.”

Another student showed differing views and how abstraction kind of changes and how people respond to it and another student-artist shared how culture is intermixed with food. The exhibits have shown humor and imagery to technology, showing how human beings can parallel technology, Bennett said.

Rohde chose childhood as his theme for his exhibit.

“My dad was away in the Marines going to Afghanistan or Iraq, so I was a very quiet kid, unless I was with my mom or my sister or my brothers,” he said. “Art gave me a comfort in a way. It also gave me a creative outlet. With my investigation, I’m focusing on the energy of children, and I come up with ideas about childhood like creativity, dependency on objects or the attraction to small things like bubbles, to the opposite side of the spectrum—isolation or trying to block out things that you're just not comfortable with. I look for something that just attracts me specifically and I start sketching to find a way to express it. I just like love childhood when you have this innocence and understanding in a different way of the world and you're exploring it.”

Bennett said a couple of Rohde’s pieces have shown “some of the things that causes the child to have to grow up a little sooner and lose some of that innocence and optimism that we have as children as we grow up and face some of the hard things that life throws at us. He is not only skilled, but he's nice and adept, especially at watercolor.”

One of Rohde’s pieces is a child who is sitting with his knees tucked in and has boxes that surround him.

“Lukas was kind of playing around with this idea of a child being ignored and has built up these barricades around him that isolates or even protects as a defense mechanism,” Bennett said. “He’s expressing energy that comes from experiences that children have, whether those are positive or negative. The color choices that he's making, some of the marks that he's making, are all kind of expressions of this energy.”

Rohde, who likes to paint with both oils and watercolor, said he has “30-something in oil paints and 200-something in watercolors.”

“I'm a bit of a geek about the pigments. I have specialty paints from pigments I’ve made and keep in a closet that probably is 25% clothes and 75% art stuff,” he said.

Hillcrest students have a variety of options in art classes in addition to drawing and painting. Students can explore jewelry-making, sculpture, photography, printmaking, art history, studio art, ceramics and more.

They draw from their experiences or observations in their artwork, Bennett said.

Art history, AP and IB students may have gained insight in art when they went on the optional art department trip to San Francisco this year to take in art and architecture, which included visiting four museums and checking out the street art and murals in the Mission District.

Locally, students gain inspiration after learning and seeing the Spiral Jetty.

“There's not water around it now, but there has been in the past, so I bring my pictures in and they see how it looks when it’s completely covered and now when it’s completely exposed. The whole idea is this idea of entropy that it will evolve and change and eventually work its way back into the landscape and disappear,” she said. “We've watched that over the years so it's nice for them to see it in person.”

A team of Hillcrest students also competed in Artstock, an inter-district competition where students spend four hours creating art, which is juried. The Huskies won the overall award this past year as well as several individual awards.

Students also have shown their art from the congressional art contest and city art shows to the streets.

This past summer, students participated in Midvale’s first Mural Festival designed to revitalize Main Street.

“We had classes this spring learning how to use spray paint and some tips to use. We also have a box that's an 8- by 8-foot cube that the kids are creating some murals on,” Bennett said.

Students also used spray paint to create a tree of life on interior doors for a Habitat for Humanity exhibit.

Sophomore Elena Parker was joined by juniors Lenny Beddoes and Imogen Valentine on the initial artwork.

“We wanted to have a tree of life and having that connection of culture tie into the infinite circle of the seasons,” Parker said. “We’ll Mod Podge the leaves on.”

Bennett said kids in the community had the opportunity to contribute to the artwork by drawing on the leaves.

Valentine appreciated having the opportunity for a different kind of art project.

“I like doing projects like this or field trips that can lead to some really cool art ideas and designs,” she said. “Using spray paint like this is not a typical art project at school.”

Beddoes also appreciated the creativity of it: “Art is subjective; it gives us freedom and a great experience we can do together.”

Students, including Parker, had summer plans to attend workshops. Parker, who was honored this year by Utah First Lady Abby Cox for her artwork of unified sports, had plans to attend California College of the Arts in San Francisco while other students have attended classes at Rhode Island School of Design.

Even locally, Bennett encourages students to gain art experiences.

“In the summer, I tell students to go see as much artwork as they can. When they’re on vacations, I encourage them to find museums, go see the work, take lots of photos and put together portfolio in categories like portraiture, landscapes, architecture or interiors or exteriors. So, when we come back to school, we have all these photos and can look at ‘what things am I seeing over and over?’ Because obviously those are the things that they’re interested in and can use to include in their artwork,” she said. “We use that as a springboard for the rest of the year.”