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Gallery Celebrates AHA’s Art Activism

  Students, teachers, parents, and members of the Berkeley High School community gathered on February 23 for the Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA) art exhibition’s opening night. The Kala Art Institute, a studio and gallery for local artists, hosted this community event for people to see, experience, and appreciate the art created over this school year by AHA students. Alongside displays of art from each grade level, students sold posters, t-shirts, and even a coloring book that AHA seniors had made.

For freshmen and sophomores, their pieces were cohesive and followed a central theme. The art show displayed students’ art from their interdisciplinary projects (IDPs) as a part of their English, history, and science classes.

The tenth grade theme this semester allowed students to pick and research a local community, “examine the community’s demographics, its geography, the health of its residents, and local causes of respiratory health problems,” said the description at the art exhibition.

Afterwards, students worked with a guest artist, Amber Julian, to create an art piece reflecting what they had explored. “We did performance pieces involving movement and speech that talked about respiratory health and air conditions in three major asthma affected cities,” said Ivy Knight, an AHA sophomore.

AHA freshmen focused on a different theme: stories of immigration. Students interviewed someone who had immigrated to the United States, created a portrait of their interviewee with a visual background of the person’s story. Ben Wenger, an AHA freshman, interviewed Henry Gong, an AHA senior, who immigrated to the US From China. “The art itself had a simple drawing of Henry surrounded by symbols that help tell his story,” he said.

Junior and senior artists at the AHA art exhibition presented various pieces with no particular theme or art style because of the loose nature of their art curriculum.

In many of the personalized descriptions of each piece, students wrote about their experience in discovering their voice as an artist.

Luke Wenger, a four year AHA senior, mainly creates ink drawings, pencil drawings, and ceramics.

One of his pieces, a depiction of samurai fighting, was a part of an assignment in his AP Studio Art class, taught by Miriam Stahl, in which “We had to look at a page in an encyclopedia and draw what we saw on it.” Wenger said.

Each student in the AP studio art class picks a concentration for the year. Lauren Baldock-Wood, also a senior in AHA, has three pieces in the art exhibition, all of which are portraits.

“I am painting twelve portraits of people I know in acrylic on wood, each in unique colors. My goal is to depict emotion through the colors I choose,” she said.

To try to categorize AHA art into any one art form would be impossible. While some of Darius Varize’s classmates are creating acrylic paintings, paper collages, and ceramics, this AHA senior is working on creating a clothing line with his mom. Being shown at the art exhibition is a shirt that he had hand screened using a homemade textile and pencil drawing.

“Drawing makes the most sense to me because I can almost always mirror whatever is in my head onto paper,” he said.

Many students in AHA feel that they don’t receive enough recognition for their art at Berkeley High. Baldock-Wood said, “In reality, there’s a huge amount of talent in all small schools and they all deserve recognition.”

She feels that many students at BHS simply aren’t aware that events like the AHA art exhibition are happening, compared to the amount of attention given to classes such as IB Studio Art. Knight said that although she sees an abundance of appreciation for each other’s art among AHA students, “other small schools aren’t aware of the amazing work that AHA students do.”

Baldock-Woode said that everyone featured at the art exhibition is able to “display completely original pieces that demonstrate our own unique personalities.” The Kala Art institute is still hosting the AHA students’ work until March 25 for Berkeley community members to go and appreciate youth-made art.