Kathleen Guglielmi Morrone views art as a communal language.
“We may find it hard to express ourselves but art can give insight to how we’re feeling, what we stand for and our passions,” says the art teacher at St. Joseph High School, Natrona Heights. “Giving students a voice and a vehicle of self-expression is so important at that age.”
That’s one of the reasons why the annual “Arts Alive!” high school art consortium showcase at Penn State, New Kensington, gallery March 3-29 is so welcome, says Morrone, an organizer of the event. A free meet-the-artists’ reception, which includes a performing arts presentation, is 5-7 p.m. March 4.
It spotlights the creativity of students from consortium member schools Highlands, Valley, Kiski, Deer Lakes and St. Joseph.
“The Arts Alive Student Art Show and Performing Arts Showcase is a fabulous event that demonstrates the importance art has in the lives of our young adults,” Morrone says. “The students of the Alle-Kiski Valley are so talented, and this event allows them to showcase their work alongside their peers.”
Allowing students to choose their projects demonstrates more than their technical skill but also their interests, she explains.
“I believe the arts are some of the only classes that give students those opportunities to be themselves,” Morrone says.
Samantha Daniels, St. Joseph senior, appreciates that “Arts Alive!” gives young artists opportunity to exhibit their work in a professional setting.
“It gives my family the chance to come and see my work, as if I was a professional artist, giving hope that one day that my artwork could actually be presented in such a way,” she says. “Art gives me the chance to express myself in ways that I usually wouldn’t be able to.”
Displaying passion and talent
The students are truly appreciative in being able to have this show to display their passion and talent, says teacher Jacob Yuhasz, who heads the art program at Kiski High.
“It also demonstrates how much hard work and commitment it takes to create a piece for a show,” he adds. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity for students to have museum-like treatment and the exposure to a larger crowd in the friendliness of friends and families,” says Kiski senior Libby Scutt “I love being able to express myself through my artwork. I love the opportunity to create without limitations and to create something I’m passionate about.”
Noah Glaister, a Deer Lakes senior, says art has taught him a lot. “I have begun to understand the different ways art relates to today’s world, through various mediums and forms. I love how art is not limited to what can be seen in museums,” he explains.
The primary purpose of making art, suggests his fellow Deer Lakes senior, Jennifer Rakowski, is to make a lasting impact on the audience and this is an occasion dedicated to doing so.
“It brings many schools and artists throughout the area to come together, connect and appreciate each other’s talents,” she says. “Expressing an emotion into a piece of art while experiencing certain events, situations or feelings allows me to process and cope with daily life events,” she adds. “It is interesting to me that I can portray one meaning through my artwork and the audience allows the artwork to find a different meaning that coincides with their life.”
St. Joseph senior Isabella Maritz enjoys the fact that there are no rules for what can be created.
“There are so many styles, mediums and opportunities that people don’t often realize that the only limit is the creator’s own imagination,” she says. “It’s just a matter of finding and overcoming that limit to make something truly meaningful.”
Megan Morrow, Highlands senior, says that art is “a fun way to express” herself. “I hope people see my true art potential and feel a sense of happiness,” she adds. “I like that students who feel passionate for art have a place to show others their talent.”
Hannah Pukal, another Highlands senior, is part of an innovative “Independent Art” class at the school.
Seniors who are accepted have successfully completed four art classes between their freshman and junior year, and apply to spend their senior year learning as artists with the teachers acting as artist mentors. “It’s amazing to have the opportunity to mentor these young artists and see the very unique and individualized portfolio of artwork these students develop throughout the year,” says teacher Teresa Emeloff. “Their final exam is an art exhibit that they plan and host.”
Relief for stress
Alyssa McDaniel is also an Independent Art student at Highlands. “Art is kind of stress reliever for me,” she says.
Emeloff says McDaniel hums along to music that she listens to while working on her art. “It makes me smile every time I hear her, knowing that she is truly happy to be creating her seriously beautiful artworks,” she says.
Happiness is the foundation of Valley High School’s focus with a fun-themed display using Mickey Mouse and his 90th birthday as the vehicle for expression.
The artists created mixed-media, 3-D sculptures of Mickey Mouse using foam and plywood.
Concept into art
“It was interesting from an educator’s standpoint to see student effort grow through turning concept into art effort,” says teacher Prissy Pakulski.
Some of the artists chose to work in groups, producing Wizard of Oz Mickeys, Ninja Turtle Mickeys and even a Michael Jackson Mickey. “The Mickeys showed new spins on a solid, well-seasoned theme,” says Pakulski. “I am most proud of how the students really got involved with this project.”
Valley senior Hayley Albright says her talents were challenged to use “my art brain” on the project. The result is a Minnie and Mickey Pez dispenser. Valley freshman Reaghan Baksis decided on a 3-D Mickey Mouse of the Tin Man.
“I hope people enjoy looking at my art and just seeing the effort that was put into it,” says Baksis. ”The art show seems super cool and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.