By Laurelle Walsh
Walking into the new show, “Teachers and Their Students,” at Confluence Gallery and Art Center is like entering a schoolhouse filled with art: black chalkboard walls, an elementary alphabet banner, school desks and a door to the principal’s office set the scene.
On the walls and scattered throughout the “school room” is a collection of two- and three-dimensional art submitted by local and regional art teachers and their students. Eleven teachers — Jody Olson of Apple Valley Art Camp, Stephanie Clark of Wenatchee Valley College, Ted Moomaw of the Colville Reservation’s Waterfall School, Reed Carlson of Wenatchee High School, Sue Clouse of Chelan High School, Phil Thomas of Manson High School, Robin Nelson-Wicks of Liberty Bell High School, Winthrop glass blower Laura Aspenwall, Winthrop watercolorist Paula Christen, and co-curators Patty Yates and Dan Brown — selected pieces that represent the range of their students’ abilities and techniques.
The show opens this week at Confluence, located at 104 N. Glover St. in Twisp. An opening reception will be held on Saturday (Jan. 18) from 4-8 p.m.
“Having opportunities to see their work in a professional setting is really important for my students,” said Brown, art and vocational teacher at Okanogan Middle and High schools.
“Young people can sometimes be painfully self conscious about their work,” Brown said, and seeing their art displayed and considered by the public can break down self-imposed barriers to moving forward artistically.
Brown said looking at the products of other area art teachers also helps him grow as a teacher. “I study what other teachers are doing,” Brown said. “Putting our work on display ends up making everybody’s art better.”
Brown said his students had to not only select work they might be willing to sell — a hard concept to get used to when you are just beginning to produce art — but they also learned about framing and presentation, pricing and hanging their pieces.
“Teachers and Their Students” is not only about young artists; adult art students and the teachers themselves have artwork in the show as well.
Co-curator Yates, who has been teaching watercolor painting in the Methow for 20 years, hangs her pieces next to those of several adult painting students. “It’s hard to tell who is teacher and who is student,” she said.
“I never wanted to teach anyone to paint like me,” Yates said. “My plan was always to give people tools and let them develop along their own path. I like to experiment and encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zone and go for it.”
Although students of all ages can be self-conscious about displaying their art, Yates said, her students are already somewhat used to having others look at their work. “We offer each other critiques and encourage what works and discuss what doesn’t. New people to the group learn from the experience of being together,” she said.
Another teacher of adults is Aspenwall, whose glasswork, along with that of four of her student/assistants, reveals the breadth of color and form made possible in glass.
“My students go off in their own directions depending on their interests,” Aspenwall said. “I help them realize their ideas.”
And Aspenwall’s students assist her when she builds large or complex pieces that require “an extra pair of hands,” she said.
“It’s beautiful the way Laura and her assistants dance around each other in the studio,” Yates remarked.
The art on display in “Teachers and Their Students” covers a wide range of mediums — drawing, photography, wood cut, painting, sculpture and assemblage. Some of the pieces by young artists are funny, such as the life-sized teenager and hand-carved electric guitar sculpted by a collaboration of eighth-grade boys; others make you want to reach out and handle them, such as the “brain on wheels” — a remote-control kinetic sculpture with eyeballs — or the tilt-table marble maze in the shape of a giant hand.
“I like to give a basic assignment and have the kids go any direction they want,” said Brown. “As they’re working, I tell them, ‘Think about what else you can do with this.’”
“Dan has stretched kids’ imaginations,” noted Yates, emphasizing a trait that runs through the work of all teachers and students in the show.
For more information, go to www.confluencegallery.com or call the gallery at 997-2787. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.