Student Art Exhibition Illustrates Hope for the Future

Photo: “To Care” by Saguaro High School student artist Ella Luthro explores similarities between the Spanish flu and COVID-19. It is part of the exhibition “A Stitch in Time” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Inspired by a current exhibition at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), students from two local high schools have created a series of artworks that speak to resilience and empathy.

Those artworks have now been collected into a Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation exhibition called “A Stitch in Time.” It opened June 25 in the ArtReach Space at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and it will remain on view through Sept. 5, 2021.

Students in art classes taught by Michelle Peacock at Saguaro High School and Jennifer Jardine at Shadow Mountain High School’s North Valley Arts Academy created the art after experiencing “Diedrick Brackens, ark of bulrushes,” on view at SMoCA through August 22, 2021.

Christine Harthun, residency and curriculum coordinator for Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation, curated the exhibition. She designed the classroom residency around Diedrick Brackens’ work, which aims to inspire hope in times of fear.

In his latest works, Brackens draws from themes of storytelling, African American and LGBTQIA+ histories, liberation, empowerment, navigation, survival and healing. His large-scale weavings of dynamic black figures merge with symbols from oral histories of Underground Railroad freedom quilts and celestial constellations while his sculptural baskets hearken to the biblical story of the infant Moses set adrift on the Nile River.

After viewing Brackens’ exhibition, the students reflected on issues important to them through lessons guided by Therosia Reynolds, a multidisciplinary artist whose work seeks to inspire, encourage and empathize with the human experience using iconography and imagery from BIPOC culture.

“Therosia and I related the themes in Diedrick’s work to the traumatic events we have all experienced over the past year and beyond, including the pandemic, economic downturn, political divisiveness and other social issues,” Harthun said. “This residency was a perfect opportunity for students to process, express and find hope around topics that are most important to them. The process of creating art can be a therapeutic way to process and heal emotional trauma.”

Through journaling, research, and sharing of personal stories and struggles, students realized that they are not alone in the issues they have endured. They bonded over shared perspectives and found solace in knowing that similar events have occurred and were resolved in time. Students were also able to document their own journeys towards healing in creative and tangible ways. The results are emotionally moving artworks that layer both struggle and hope for the future.

Reynolds noted that contemporary teens are growing up in the midst of a pandemic, economic struggles, systemic racism, attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community and political chaos.

“This exhibition is about those youth facing these struggles with honesty while learning to use their voices in art to be a part of the change,” Reynolds said. “They will inherit our mistakes and successes. They must understand the circumstances well and have hope that they can be the difference for the better.”

Among the subjects explored by the student artists are immigration, equality, discrimination, mental health, COVID-19 recovery, gender issues, economic difficulties, racism, the environment, xenophobia, violence, religious freedom, healthcare, sexual assault, poverty, colonialism, international conflict, sexual identity, and the political divide.

Saguaro High School student Samantha Lyle’s artwork “Hope is the Future” references the Holocaust.
“Where does one begin to forgive such a tragic event that stole the lives of so many? My piece expresses the faith grasped onto while enduring the worst pain felt during the Holocaust. The red and blue colors of my piece represent the hurt, purification, and love for God that provided these people with hope. The masks and clothing represent the ones who fell victim to the concentration camps. The hand holding the Star of David symbolizes the past generation, which is sharing its knowledge and stories with the new generation. The almond tree symbolizes the paths taken by the old generation in order to overcome the agony these resilient people have undergone,” shares Lyle.

The ArtReach Space is located in the south hallway of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale. The Center is open from 11 am to 6 pm. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 5 pm on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays.

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