Scottsdale Arts Student Visual Art Program and Exhibition Continues through Pandemic

Scottsdale Arts

The "Visions '21" exhibition at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

“Visions ’21,” a new exhibition featuring the artwork of local high school students who participate in Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation’s Visions program, opened May 7.

The artwork will remain on display through Sept. 13 in the Center Space gallery at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale.

Visions is a multi-visit, invitational visual arts program that has been provided to metro Phoenix area teens for 22 years. Through the appreciation and creation of art, Visions aims to cultivate the development of teen social and mental well-being while enhancing social connections, opening dialogue and promoting tolerance and confidence.

Brittany Arnold, teen and family coordinator for Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation, facilitates the Visions program. She said the COVID-19 pandemic challenged the program’s primary goals, but the students, educators and professional artists who collaborate in the program refused to let physical distancing prevent them from creating and connecting.

“While we did miss the usual person-to-person interaction, we still managed to meet on a regular basis through Zoom with artists in other states and countries,” Arnold said. “This allowed us the opportunity to work with artists we wouldn’t normally be able to partner with due to geographical or time constraints.”

Throughout a typical school year, Visions students from five high schools would attend monthly workshops conducted by professional artists, tour the University of Arizona School of Art and connect with exhibitions offered by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). This past year, all these activities were virtual due to the pandemic.

Arnold said the virtual setting of the program turned out to be a more comfortable space for some of the students, who shared intimate stories without fear of judgment, connected with students from other schools and discovered a different kind of creative space. It gave them an opportunity to commiserate about the struggles of the pandemic without stifling their humanity and creativity while also building resilience that will be beneficial to them after high school.

“Interreacting with artists in a more collaborative environment definitely was a huge step for me,” said Henry Dollak, a student at New School for the Arts & Academics in Tempe, who participated in the Visions program. “I’ve never been particularly keen on working together on art things, and I never really realized how much a sense of community plays into being an artist. I’ve never had that before, and now that I have, I don’t think I could ever go back.”

The exhibition “Visions ’21” showcases skills and inspiration exchanged between the students and artists over the course of the 2020–21 program. National and international artists lectured on their professional backgrounds, successes, and barriers while also teaching new art-making techniques and themes.

Both the SMoCA exhibitions and artist-led workshops inspired the students to choose one or two artists who were of interest to them. It is through these techniques and meaningful conversations that the Visions students were able to find a better understanding of the world, their peers and themselves.

Ken Rosenthal, of Tucson, was among the professional artists who worked with the students during the 2020–21 program.

“I enjoyed our Visions workshop immensely, and, as always, was so impressed by the high caliber of work being produced by the young artists in the program,” Rosenthal said. “There were some incredibly raw and honest presentations, and I was frankly blown away.”

The results of the program can be seen in the 34 artworks on display in the “Visions ’21” exhibition. It opened on Friday, May 7, with a reception for the students, their family members and their friends. It is now open to the public in the Center Space gallery from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The Center is closed on Mondays.

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