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Art is in the eyes of the students at West

Gallery completely run by pupils this year

Oct. 3, 2012

The proverbial paintbrush is in the hands of Wauwatosa West High School students this year.

West's art gallery, which recently had its first show, is completely student run for the first time.

Jessica Belich, head of the Art Department, said, "Last year was the first year that it (the gallery) was in operation. As we go I'm trying to take a very lesser and lesser role. I do very little. I do mainly organizational work this year."

The gallery is run by a tight student group of about 20. The group has two student directors, Isaac Michael, a senior, and Maureen Vento, a junior. The students work on everything from hanging paintings to planning events throughout the year.

Receiving money, space

The gallery was founded after Belich received a $5,000 grant from the Education Foundation of Wauwatosa and the principal allotted for another $3,000. The gallery was installed in a previously unused wing of West's library and boasts pedestals, directional lighting and, of course, wall-to-wall student artwork.

"We want to get a lot more students involved in it," Maureen said. "It's still kind of unknown to students because they'll pass by and see art in it and say 'Oh, what's that?' During homeroom we're going to try to promote that to more students to get more art from everyone."

The student directors said they work every day on the gallery after school and are constantly looking for ways to promote it. Michael is working on creating a team that would design and put up posters advertising the gallery around the school.

Every art student at West High School has to submit a piece to the gallery during the school year. The piece is then judged by a small committee on a three-part rubric - originality, craftsmanship and intention - that Belich and the directors wrote up. If a piece is rejected, the directors will write a letter explaining why it was rejected and encouraging the student to continue to submit art.

Going national for show

Many different types of art are accepted, such as poetry and sculptures. The first show was a showcase for National Art Honor Society's pieces. The show contained photography, painting, charcoal brushes and sculptures from the NAHS students.

"I want an overall school appreciation for the hard work that's here," Michael said. "Each and every person's artwork takes so much time and effort to make and it needs to be recognized."

The gallery isn't only for students. There will be a faculty show some time in November. The directors are planning to have an opening much like a privately-run gallery.

"I feel like a good amount of students don't understand the concept of a gallery," Michael said. "I'd like to actively get more people participating in the events that are going on and the shows that we're doing."

One of the main goals set out for the gallery this year is to be more open to the entire student body. The gallery accepts any student contribution regardless of their status in the art department.

"We wanted to pick themes that were wide open enough for students who weren't confident," Belich said. "These were still things they could make art about. We try to include everybody in the building and not just your typical art kid."

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