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UAMA exhibit showcases high school talent

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Sofia Moraga and Sofia Moraga | The Daily Wildcat A worker at the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) enters the museum located off of Speedway and Park Ave.

The third annual “Our Stories: High School Artists” exhibition opened Saturday, Feb. 8 at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, featuring artwork by high school students from across the city.

This year, the exhibit is showcasing the work of 43 students from 15 different schools, according to Willa Ahlschwede, the UAMA’s assistant curator of education & public programs. Ahlschwede helped start the exhibition during its initial year and has been involved with the show as co-curator ever since.

“The show highlights what’s going on in the classrooms,” Ahlschwede said. “The high school teachers themselves help to curate the show by selecting students they want to highlight and sending us the submissions.”

According to Ahlschwede, the number of participating students has increased every year. The museum accepts every entry from the teachers that they receive. The show is an opportunity for the students to have their voices heard by the public, Ahlschwede said, and to have their work hung on the same floor as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko’s, so these upcoming artists are being taken seriously.

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“[Our Stories] is important because it allows the average museum-goer a glimpse into the minds of young artists,” Sarah Hoy, an art teacher at Cholla High School, wrote in an email. “Students at this age are so unscripted and honest and are more willing to take risks with their artwork based on genuine interest.”

Ahlschwede believes that it is the role of the UAMA to exhibit what young artists are expressing in their work.

According to Ahlschwede, “Our Stories” first began because many of the high school art instructors offering their students’ work are UA alumni, so the museum had connections with educators across the city.

“The teachers are so wonderful for promoting the work of their students and giving them opportunities like this,” Ahlschwede said.

Alexis Pilar Negron is a junior at Cholla High School and is one of the participating artists from Hoy’s class. Her piece titled “Star Rising” is featured in the exhibit.

“This particular piece is about one of my protagonists, Leo. Thanks to Mrs. Hoy, I actually drew it,” Negron said in an email. “I really enjoy seeing pieces come to life.”

Araceli Gastelum is a junior at Palo Verde High Magnet School, and her piece in the show is called “Psychedelic Dejection.”

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“There are a lot of people in my life who have struggled with depression and drug addiction,” Gastelum said about her art piece. “I listened to the song ‘Keeping Tabs’ by Cuco that had a similar vibe to this theme, so I used the lyrics for a black out poetry assignment.”

Gastelum has been creating art for about five years, but it was her art teacher Celeste Rumler, who encouraged her to submit her work. What Gastelum loves about art is how she can put whatever comes into her mind onto paper, no matter the medium.

Karen Mitchell, has been teaching for about 35 years, is in her fourth year teaching art at Palo Verde High Magnet School. One of her favorite things about teaching high school is watching her students develop creatively and artistically, while also keeping them abreast of community art opportunities.

“Art is in everything, art is everywhere,” Mitchell wrote in an email. “[Our Stories] is a great honor and opportunity for high school students to exhibit in a museum and compete for a scholarship based on a piece of work.”

The show lasts until Sunday, April 26, with a closing reception from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on April 25. At the reception, a panel of judges will announce their top five picks for the strongest artist awards, with a $1,000 award toward tuition if they enroll in the UA School of Art. The exhibit and the closing reception are both open to the public.

“[The show] is an exciting chance to see artists you won’t see in other places, who are trying new things,” Ahlschwede said. “It’s contemporary art, so it’s showing the now, a different perspective – especially if you’re not a teenager.”


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