Artists are rarely able to control who or what becomes a muse for their work. Oftentimes it’s a feeling they get, a pull toward a certain subject that brings out their deepest passions and keeps them practicing their abilities.
It would make sense, then, that muses aren’t something that can be forced on an artist. It has to be a natural process, one that leads to confidence and a true love for the artistic medium.
That’s the idea behind the art classes at the Linderman Education Center, and the art show running at Colter Coffee featuring the work of the LEC students. One student, Joey Brusati, has his own photography exhibit in the show. The show runs through the end of May and offers a chance for the art to reach a whole new audience.
It’s also an important kind of conversation that should happen in the community, the LEC art instructors said, because these kids deserve to know their work and feelings are an important part of the Flathead Valley too.
“A lot of what’s internal comes out, especially if they’re doing an art journal,” afternoon LEC art teacher Laura McCann said. “To me as a teacher, it’s like art is therapy.”
“A majority of the kids here are here because they struggled in traditional schooling,” Tom Roberts, the morning LEC art teacher, said. “These kids can express themselves through art and they find success.”
The art class focuses on positive reinforcement and creative curiosity instead of stringent artistic rules and critiques.
“Kids can have a lot of anxiety about art,” McCann said. “When they come to our classes, we tell them, ‘Do what you like; guide yourself.’ When you give kids the option, they just can’t get enough of it.”
Many of the student artists involved in the show were unaware of their particular talents before taking the classes at LEC; they said they were encouraged to try new forms of art without any pressure, and could create art about nearly any subject.
“I took photography just to be done with high school,” Brusati, 18, said. “And then I kept going. My teacher said I had a talent for it, and it’s really fun.”
Brusati’s solo photography show, “Reflections & Rhapsody,” features intimate photos of Brusati’s other artistic love: his musical instruments, particularly the violin and viola.
Bailey Hiebert, 17, said the graphite and charcoal drawings that emerge on her pages are really just a way to pass the time, but she’s grown fond of the way she can create various shades in her work.
“It’s just easy to make it blend well,” she said.
Seventeen-year-old Garrett Bennett knew he needed an art credit to graduate, so he took the class. Not a painter or a drawer himself, he found he enjoyed creating 3D art pieces, particularly the act of building them.
“I can’t draw well, and Mr. Roberts said, ‘You might want to try this,’” Bennett said.
His three-dimensional buffalo sculpture is featured at the coffee shop.
Rayven Huffman, 17, said she felt drawn to painting landscapes with watercolors and sometimes acrylics, and would like to continue creating art in her life after graduation, maybe becoming a tattoo artist.
Cody Anderson, 17, often drew to express himself but after joining the art classes at LEC has discovered his affinity and talent for painting. He plans to keep working on his skills, but isn’t sure if he’s going to pursue it in his adult life.
Michaela Carvo, 17, is a painter who will work on a two-dimensional surface if necessary, but really loves body and face painting, including makeup. Her classmates raved about her multi-eyed face paint for Halloween last October.
When asked if they felt nervous having their work in the world, the students were largely neutral, though they did hope people react well to their work. The art is for sale, with such purchases negotiated via Roberts and McCann at the school and not through the student artists.
The students said they wouldn’t balk at selling their work, except under special circumstances.
“I’d sell prints,” Huffman said. “Because my mom would get mad if I sold the originals.”