Learning from Artistic Experience

Flathead High School advanced visual arts program to host exhibit in Kalispell on Feb. 24

By Molly Priddy

When it comes to artists and their creations, it’s rare that they start out producing their best and most-personal work. More often, they get to that point through many instances of trial and error, exploration and success.

But the lessons learned along the way are integral, and will shape the artists’ perspectives as they continue to grow.

The artistic development of the student in the Flathead High School International Baccalaureate Programme will be on display during the program’s annual art show, but this year is the first time the exhibition will be held off school grounds.

From Feb. 24 to March 10, the work of the students will be up for public view at the Museum at Central School in Kalispell, with an opening reception on Feb. 25 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. A record number of 22 students will be participating.

“It’s a chance for other people in the community to see their work,” art teacher Kristie Caratelli said.

Flathead’s IB program encompasses a full spectrum of educational pursuits, and the art program is an important piece of that puzzle, according to art teacher Sara Nelson, who, along with Caratelli, teaches the IB visual art classes.

Some of the students participating in the show are taking the arts class because they need a fine arts credit to graduate within the IB program, she said, while others are involved because they love art and wanted to pursue more classes.

But the key premise of the show is the same as that of most educational programs: personal development. Each student will showcase a spectrum of their work, dating back to earlier classes up to the present, to show how they’ve improved and adapted.

“It’s not about the outcome,” Caratelli said. “It’s about them learning and getting to that point.”

Nelson said the students in the IB visual arts program don’t follow a certain syllabus, but instead choose what they want to study. For some, this means the teachers have to help them look up techniques or connect with the local art community to find out more information.

“They have to come up with a kernel of an idea,” Nelson said of the students.

This allows the students the freedom of curiosity, and they may end up working with a medium they haven’t used before, or find that they have a certain knack for an art form.

In the upcoming show, mediums used in student work will include pen and ink, graphite, charcoal, jewelry, oil paint, acrylic paint, papier-mache, photography, watercolor paint, digital designs, graphic designs and more.

Giving the students such a broad range of possibilities to explore keeps them learning and inquisitive, and in turn brings about better work from the high schoolers because they feel ownership and true authenticity in the projects.

“If they’re doing something that is just to please us, they’re not excited about it,” Nelson said.

Sydney Boveng, 17, will participate in the show for the first time, and intends on displaying pieces she created based on her interest in Norwegian culture, as well as cultural influences from India.

“It’s something that really speaks to me,” Boveng said.

As a senior who will be graduating early in hopes of attending art school in Oregon full time, Boveng said the IB visual arts program has prepared her for a future in art study because it gave her not only the technical skills to improve her work, but also the mental framework to ask questions and truly consider her pieces.

“It teaches you how to think about things,” she said.

Her pieces in the show will include graphite, paper sculpture, watercolor, and acrylic paintings, and Boveng said she enjoys the premise of the show because it gives her a good idea of how her style and technique have changed in the last year or so.

“Now I can see what I would do differently,” she said.

Providing students with perspective on their personal development as well as that of other artists – the IB program focuses on multicultural art, Nelson said – gives them the tools to broaden their horizons, while also giving the support they need as budding artists.

And any time an artist can have perspective on their work, it’s an opportunity for evolution.

“You get to see their growth,” Caratelli said. “I’m constantly impressed. As an educator, I’m constantly learning from my students.”

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