Show brings student work back to art center

Translating classroom time to the remote sphere proved challenging for teachers and students of all kinds at the height of the pandemic. Some had to get especially creative.

“That was hard. I mean, teaching ceramics online – that was hard, “said John Morton, the art teacher at Kenai Central High School.

He said when school was fully online, he heard from students that they missed creating together in the art room.

“So there were a lot of people when we came back and had consistency who talked about, ‘It’s so good to be back doing it,'” he said. “And when that is part of your nourishment, that is really important. It’s something you miss. ”

For the last two years, the public has been missing it, too. The Kenai Art Center took a pause on its annual student art show in 2020 and 2021.

This month, it’s back in full force. And at the art center Thursday, the central peninsula’s art teachers presented awards from a panel of judges to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category.

Soldotna High School Senior Jordan Henley placed first in the mixed media category for “Painting No. 2 ”- a layered piece with a green textured background, trippy striped foreground and, at the center, a painted moth and pyramid

“I’m very abstract when I paint so I don’t have a vision,” Henley said. “I just go with it.”

As is the case for many of the show’s artists, this is Henley’s first show.

“I usually just kind of paint and then make a big painting and just put it on my wall,” he said. “No one sees it.”

Pieces fill the art center’s front space, showing off the personality of each high school-aged artist.

The back room is all middle schoolers. A sculpture by Skyview seventh grader Kate Cox sits on a pedestal in the middle of the room, next to a purple “Best of Show” ribbon.

“My mom’s an art teacher, and so I do a lot of art, too,” she said. “So I kind of wanted it to inspire my tree. That’s why it’s called, ‘Life Created by Art.’ ”

The base is a wooden block painted to look like a crayon box, topped by a painter’s palette and paint brush wrapped in wire that serves as the tree. Small empty tubes of paint are the leaves of the tree.

Holding onto the tree trunk is a small wooden mannequin.

“I kind of liked how you could bend him in different spots to make him express, because I’m also a performer,” Cox said. “So that also brought in something else in my life, too.”

Morton said art teachers at each of the schools keep their eyes out for potential submissions year round and encourage students to submit. Each school has a limited number of pieces it can send into the show.

One of the winning pieces, from Soldotna High School Senior Alissa Powell, is doing double duty.

On one hand, it’s a second-place winner in the show’s high school drawing category.

But the piece was also one of Powell’s portfolio works for her applicatoin to art school. This fall, she’s headed to Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fl. to study computer animation.

“My parents explained to me when I was the age of 11 that there were people who made the movies that I loved so much,” she said. “And I was like, ‘You know what, I want to do that. I want to make cool movies that have my favorite characters in them. ‘ So I’ve kind of stuck with that, ever since I was 11. ”

Powell had to submit 15 portfolio pieces during the college application process. She said it came down to the wire.

“I had about half of my pieces done by the time I got to assembling my portfolio,” she said. “It was definitely a mad dash at the end to get this all done. I got this done about three days before the deadline.”

Her drawing, “The Elephant in the Room,” has a watercolor base and is filled in with colored pencil. The result, she says, is an opaque, political cartoon feel.

“It’s not something I’ve tried before,” she said. ‘I’ve seen it all over art social media and stuff. I just thought it would be very interesting. They’re two of my favorite mediums so I thought, why not the best of both worlds? ”

Powell has several other award-winners in the exhibit, including a mixed media piece called “DINOSAURS!” But she says “The Elephant in the Room” is her favorite.

The Kenai art show isn’t the only chance to see student art this month.

Kindergarteners from Soldotna Elementary School have an exhibit of pieces at Kaladi Brothers in Soldotna for the month of April.

Kindergarten teacher AnnMarie Rudstrom said she’s been working with her 26 students on different styles of art all year, like watercolors and tile mosaics.

“We did an Arctic unit and they used actual fur scraps from various types of animals to create little parkas and mukluks to represent themselves, how they might dress in the Arctic,” she said.

She said students learned how to title art pieces and use primary colors. On Friday, the class took a field trip to Kaladis to see some of their works on the walls.


Courtesy of AnnMarie Rudstrom


Kindergarteners from AnnMarie Rudstom’s class have art on display at the Kaladi Brothers on South Kobuk this month.

“They were so proud and so excited,” Rudstrom said. “At first it was hard to them to understand that I wasn’t giving them their artwork when we completed it all year long. But I kept reminding them – ‘Trust me. It will be worth it. We’re going to have an art show. ‘”

Morton, the Kenai art teacher, said recognizing and rewarding kids can be really validating for young artists. That’s one important factor of the show making its return this year.

“When you make a visual product, part of your goal is intrinsic and part of it is how it’s going to be viewed and received by an audience,” Morton said. “So it’s really important that they have that venue to do it.”

The student art show will be up in the Kenai Art Center through the month of April.

The kindergarteners’ exhibit, in Soldotna, will be up at the Kaladi Brothers on South Kobuk through the month, as well.

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