By Jane Vick
Student art is on the rise at the Santa Rosa Arts Center (SRAC), which presents its 2nd Annual Rising Artists Show—a three-week gallery show that highlights Santa Rosa high school senior artists beginning this Friday, May 6.
The first iteration of the show, in 2019, was, according to SRAC advisory board member and acting education coordinator Barbara Goodman, an incredible success, and the wait is finally over. Forty-six students, 13 teachers and seven schools will be represented, and many of them will be in attendance on opening night to discuss the inspiration and impetus behind their work.
“The show really started,” said Goodman, on a call earlier this week, “with us asking what we could do for students. What can we do for young people to honor, support and enliven them? I’m always asking how we include students. I’m a retired school teacher, so it’s something I like to do. And I’m so excited about this year. 2019 was such a success, and we’ve been shut down since, so as soon as we reopened, I said okay, let’s try it again.”
Her goal for this show, said Goodman, was to create something joyful, a gathering, a celebration, to make up for how much has been missed in the last two years. She wanted to create something not only for the students who are serious about art, but also for those who simply enjoy the act of creating, and want to share their work and reconnect to their community.
Goodman wrote letters directly to the students, inviting them personally to show their work, and enjoy the opportunity. With some students presenting as many as three pieces, and mediums ranging from ceramics to paintings to photography to drawing, it promises to be a striking show, and one which in future years might stretch to include a wider range of Sonoma County high schools. It’s also SRAC’s goal to fund the presentation of student work next year—including mounting and framing, which is currently being funded by devoted art teachers.
“As it stands,” said Goodman, “the teachers are doing that work because of how much they love their students. Our goal for next year is to have found funding for those costs.”
Students participating in the show also have an opportunity to learn about other shows happening, and further chances to display their work. Not only this, but SRAC is also looking for a younger voice on their advisory board—an opportunity for a burgeoning artist.
During the pandemic-induced hiatus, the need for the show—like the need for all social and community interaction—vastly increased. Students weren’t in school, masks were on, and a general sense of isolation descended upon teenagers.
In the slow return to normal, things aren’t normal at all, and teachers, like art teacher Dennis Miller from Montgomery High School and Heather Hagle from Ridgeway High School, have lost a connection to their students that they’re still working to regain. Hagle said that though students initially expressed interest in the show, many of them fell off when the deadlines arrived. Of the 10 students she originally had involved, two came through.
“Everything is still completely askew, and the students are struggling to come back. So many kids have just shut down—many of them became so shy,” said Hagle.
But the two students she does have involved—Daniel Lemons, who did an ink drawing, and Sophiah Vasquez, who did a painting with acrylic—are completely thrilled.
“Their faces lit up when they found out about the show,” said Hagle. “I think it’s giving them a sense of returning to normal after the pandemic.”
“Getting the students to participate has been a major challenge,” said Miller. “Covid has hit the teenage demographic particularly hard. So many students are still hidden behind masks. It’s like they crawled into a private space and are having trouble coming out.”
Of his many talented art students, only one is participating. Lucia Lindner—whose work is the featured image for this article—has, as Miller puts it, crawled out of hiding quickly, and leapt at the opportunity to show her work. I was able to talk with her about her process and enthusiasm about her first art show.
Student Artist Lucia Lindner
Bohemian: Have you always been an artist?
Lucia Lindner: I’ve been drawing since elementary school, and always wanted to be good at it. I do it for fun and have always wanted to explore it more. I used to dislike my work, but I’ve started to really like it lately! I’ve seen a lot of growth.
B: Do you think your art teacher has helped with that growth?
LL: Oh gosh yes. Mr. Miller is an incredible teacher. I had him last year too—I love his ceramics class. He would always come to me personally, compliment and appreciate my work. He helped me with supplies, gave me great art books. He took the time to show me different approaches I could take in my art. Mr. Miller gave me so many different ideas of things to draw—body features, eyes—and he would help me put things together.
B: Did art help you during the harder parts of the pandemic?
LL: Definitely. Drawing helped me escape the whole mess of it all. I missed school so much, and was also scared to come back at the same time. Being gone for so long gave me such social anxiety.
B: And how do you feel about the upcoming show?
LL: Super excited. When I was walking up to bring my art, I saw my artwork in the flyer, and it was such an incredible feeling. I’m so excited to get my artwork noticed. This is my first show.
I’m trying to be more open to opportunities to sell my art, to paint murals, to keep creating. I want to make my living as an artist. I hope my work brings curiosity to eyes and maybe a smile.
Rising Artists: Art by Santa Rosa High Schools Senior Students will be on view May 6–26. Artists Reception: First Friday, May 6, 5-7pm, 312 South A St., Santa Rosa. For more information, visit www.santarosaartscenter.org.