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They have grown up together sharing their passion for art, but as local Grade 12 students start the New Year by preparing to say goodbye as they go their separate ways, they are coming together to end their high school careers on a high note: a professionally curated art show at the Aurora Cultural Centre.
Students from all local high schools are hard at work putting the finishing touches on visual and performance art pieces that will fill the historic halls of the Church Street School next month as part of the Mayor’s Celebration of Youth Arts.
The Mayor’s Celebration of Youth Arts, now in its seventh year, brings together the creative talents of all graduating art students who work together to curate a show in a professional gallery space.
The show opens Saturday, February 1, with an opening reception for the visual artists on Wednesday, February 5, followed by an evening dedicated to performing arts on Wednesday, February 19 (backup date is set for February 26) before the show closes at the end of the month.
Speaking to The Auroran in the lead-up to their winter holiday, students from St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic High School and Aurora High School shared their excitement for things to come.
“A bunch of us have known each other since Grade 9 and we have worked our way up to this,” says St. Max student Abby Bingham. “Being able to get that recognized in this space means so much and it is really important to me. I am going to miss everyone so much next year and I think this is a way to bring closure to everything. We’re all a family and we have created a safe space to talk about our art, what we create, do what feels right to us with the freedom to express that to each other. I trust these people in my class with some of the things I haven’t even told my family and it is just one of those things where now I get to share that with the rest of the world and it means a lot to me to be a part of this.”
Projects slated to take pride of place at the Aurora Cultural Centre have been worked on all year so far, Abby explains, and working on art ranging from self portraits to posters, QR codes and other media to promote the show, have allowed students to explore many areas with few limitations.
“Art is more about self-expression, whereas the design is more catering to what other people want to see,” says Abby.
Fellow St. Max student Nicole Hiscox picks up the thread, adding: “We’re given instruction but we have so much freedom to do what we want to express our own story. I think a lot of us have been focused on trying to tell a story in our art, which has been really cool to see because a lot of the students in our art classes have been taking these classes since Grade 9. We have travelled as a group to this point, so we have just become a big family. Now with the art that we’re doing, it is about connecting and just becoming closer, which is really exciting.”
Student Grace Power has been working on marketing campaigns with Abby as part of their design course. There, they have learned the creative power it takes to create everything from an evocative ad to a Google Doodle. QR codes being finalized will, she says allow art-lovers to explore their works even further.
“You will be able to view the piece on a website as well as read information about the artist from the school that created it and see their different pieces,” she says. “There might also be a forum for them to leave comments for the artist about their piece, so that will be a nice way for people to connect with the art that students have here.”
Stephanie Demeter, a student from Aurora High, is helping to coordinate the performing arts aspect of the Mayor’s Celebration of Youth Arts. Describing herself as “more of an ensemble player” whose interests lie more in the behind-the-scenes aspects of performance, Stephanie says this semester has provided her and her fellow students a wide variety of areas to explore.
“We have done classical pieces at our winter concert and in our in-class time we have done some history as well, studying romantic and twentieth-century music,” she says. “That has been a lot of fun. It has just been a group of us since Grade 9 and this is our last year together, so there have been a lot of amazing experiences so far. The things they are putting together [for this show] in their own time expresses a lot of creativity and it will be really awesome to see that kind of expression from Grade 12 students. I know these past four years of music, this group of students have travelled the world together, we have competed together, and just to see what everyone has taken out of that class time and just ran with it and put their own spin on things to put on a solo performance is just really amazing. I think public space, for visual and performing arts, especially for students, is really lacking so this is a really unique and amazing opportunity.”
Their words are music to the ears of Christina DiPaola, Gallery Assistant at the Aurora Cultural Centre, who is providing a guiding hand for the students pulling everything together.
“To hear that people are seeing it as a cumulative experience and it is a sending-off into new things, that’s really exciting to me and that is the idea,” she says. “We’re going to have five or six schools coming together for all this and this is like the cross-pollination you get in university with students from everywhere coming to one place. You get to see how other students your own age are responding to culture and the times and also their personal experiences while meeting other artists in Town.”
Adds Abby: “For our final piece, we have to create something that is focused on social issues and it can be anything from depression, to anxiety, to world hunger, or even more personal issues. I think it is kind of giving us an opportunity to explore something we either feel connected to or make a statement about something that is happening in other parts of the world or to other people. The culture really gives us an opportunity to explore these things and we can use our voices, put it through art, and have it displayed here for everyone to see. I like that there’s not that many limitations on it. It’s a free project and you can totally express yourself. Anything you want to say, you can put on canvas and it can be shown to thousands of people here.”
By Brock Weir