Scottsdale Arts Celebrates 25 Years of Visions with ‘Visions ’24’ Exhibition

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation, a department of the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts, will exhibit “Visions ’24” to highlight the skills, inspirations and ideas exchanged between high school students and professional teaching artists over the course of 2023–24 Visions program.

The newest exhibition opens on May 10 and will remain on display through Sept. 22 at the Center Space gallery inside Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E 2nd St., Scottsdale, Arizona 85251.

Visions is a year-long invitational visual arts program offered to six Valley high schools. This year, Visions will celebrate its 25th anniversary as one of the longest-running museum teen art programs in the country.

Sally Lindsay, a former associate curator of education for Scottsdale Arts started the Visions program in 1999 alongside the opening of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). The initial program involved partnering with schools to teach 42 students in three media groups through professional workshops. Lindsay ran the program until her retirement in 2008, then Laura Hales, curator of learning & innovation, took over for 11 years until 2019.

Brittany Arnold, community engagement manager for Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation, has now managed the Visions program for six years. She has witnessed many students come through the program, and each year she is blown away by the caliber of artwork coming from these young artists.

“As a society, we’re very aware of the passage of time because it’s something that we all are trying to grapple with, no matter what age we’re at,” Arnold said. “But for adolescents, they suddenly go from being a young teen to an adult within four years, and you see how they deal that kind of social whiplash in their artwork. They don’t want to lose their naivety or innocence; they want to hold on to a sense of play. This year the students were able to visually express that internal conflict in a way that really surprised me.”

Throughout the year, the students who participate in the program attend monthly workshops and retreats conducted by professional artists, tour universities and connect with SMoCA exhibitions

The culmination of the students’ creative journey, guided by the expertise of working artists, is a final exhibition to showcase their artwork. Mari Escobar Espinoza, a first-year Visions student from Tempe High School, is presenting her artwork “Lurking About” to visualize her journey with her mental health.

“With depression, there are moments where you are scared that it might come back and take over,” Espinoza said. “That’s what I wanted to focus on. What if I start doing badly again with my mental health? That’s what I hope to show with my final artwork.”

Through Visions, Espinoza had the opportunity to learn about and branch out into three-dimensional artwork. She learned fabric coiling from Arizona-based artist Saskia Jorda and found the process to be meditative. She plans to incorporate the artistic practice into her final work.

“I think she created such a beautiful metaphor about this idea of depression creeping up on you,” Arnold said. “She personified it as a sea monster that lurks in the muddy waters. I think living with the uncertainty of depression possibly rearing its ugly head again resonates with a lot people, and I’m super proud of her for talking about something that is not often discussed.”

Jackson Washburn, another first-year Visions student from Chaparral High School, turned to photography for his final artwork “Define Androgynous.”

“Since my project closely follows a personal issue, I chose 10 people that I am close to to participate in a studio photo shoot,” Washburn said. “I dressed them in different styles of clothing, regardless of what they usually wear due to societal norms or personal agendas.”

Washburn hopes to capture people as they are instead of what they wear. He thinks it’s important that people are recognized by their loyalty, honesty and personality rather than how others perceive them or expect them to be, based on outward appearances.

“I want people to acknowledge that there’s always a second perspective to people. What you see is not what you always get,” Washburn said. “I think it’s important to not judge people too quickly, just based on how they express themselves.”

Espinoza and Washburn are only two of more than a thousand students who have participated and expressed their creativity over the 25-year run of Visions. This year, there are 39 students featured in “Visions ’24,” carving a spot for themselves in the legacy of this long-standing teen art program, and Scottsdale Arts will keep the door open for hundreds more students to find their place in the world of art.

“Visions ’24” will run from May 10 through Sept. 22, 2024. A public reception will be held on Friday, May 10, at 5 p.m. for the students, their family members and their friends. It is also open to the public. Visitors will also be able to see the exhibition for themselves in the Center Space gallery from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays through Sept. 22. The center is closed on Mondays.

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