Visitors to my office often comment on the art hanging on its walls, their eyes widening when they learn that it is student art. A number of years ago I started a bit of a campaign to hang student art in the halls and other spaces around the school, an idea that quickly gathered more momentum than I could sustain personally, and now we have a healthy supply of student art work hanging in all kinds of places on all three campuses. The art that hangs, or stands, or is stuck in its special location does provoke a fresher and more personal image of our students’ selves than we might otherwise acquire. In a school like ours with significant expectations for students to rise to, and a strong sense of identity for students to belong to, a risk is that we might be tempted to lump them all together in a polished, robust, energetic but standardized model whose uniformity was only slightly enriched by differences of hair, height, build and sound of voice. Our students have numerous opportunities to reveal themselves more individually, and one of the more challenging ones is their art work.
A couple of weeks ago, our students had a show in the Eclectic Gallery in Victoria, of both art and poetry. Right now, we have some student art in the Victoria Art Gallery. In a month’s time, a comprehensive collection of stunning Senior Art will be on display at the McPherson Playhouse. Our Junior and Middle Schools will participate later in the year in an Independent Schools art show.
The approachability of art is a frequent topic of discussion. While our student art work (and I should mention that I am referring not just to graphic art but also to sculpture, ceramic, other plastic and electronic art) is actually pretty approachable. It is also a great example of the risk-taking necessary for imaginations that are trying to communicate something individual – at times intense, at times understated – from the inside of one person to the inside of another. In this exercise the viewer can also be expected to make an effort, and to receive the artistic offering in the spirit in which it is intended. Student art is both ambitious and vulnerable; it reaches further than it grasps in most cases, since the artist’s skill may not have acquired the level his or her imagination would like. Nevertheless the art on display is an important and satisfying experience in our effort to see our students as real and whole people, whose entirety we embrace.