The image of a skull melting in waves of neon may not be everyone’s idea of uplifting; but for artist Alex Beech, one such painting has been so in more ways than one.
Beech is an art student at Coupeville High School, one of a few dozen high school artists from South Whidbey, Coupeville and Oak Harbor high schools whose work will be on display this weekend during the Showcase of the Arts: All-Island High School Art Show.
Art will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 at the Coupeville Library. A reception for the artists, open to the public, will take place from 5-8 p.m. Friday with awards to be presented at 7 p.m.
Local artists will judge pieces in five categories: wall art, which includes paintings and drawings; photography; ceramics; jewelry/wearable art; and sculpture.
Ribbons and cash prizes of $100, $60 and $20 will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners in each category, respectively.
In addition, a special photography award of $100 will be given by Nancy Hodges in memory of her late father who was a professional photographer.
The show is sponsored by the American Association of University Women and Friends of the Coupeville Library.
Though pieces range in media as they do in subject matter, many of the students’ works convey a message, or are of personal significance.
For Beech and others, the experience marks a few important creative milestones.
The piece is the first Beech will be sharing in a public setting.
The format is also relatively new to Beech, who had much more experience wielding a pen and ink rather than a paint brush, as is the subject matter. Death wasn’t something he had previously explored through his art, though doing so, he said, helped him to ascend from his own darkness.
“I was going through some pretty tough crap in my life when I was working on this,” he said. “I was kind of in a dark place and I feel like, quite ironically, this has brought a bit more light into my life. I’m a lot happier, especially having it done.”
For several students, the show itself can also be a platform for growth and a boost of confidence.
“It was uplifting and really eye-opening,” said Will Stuntz of last year’s AAUW show. Stuntz, a student at OHHS, also recently won first place in a regional show for his metalsmith work.
Teachers like OHHS’s Kit Christopherson noted that, just as it is important for performing arts students to perform for live audiences, it is equally important for his students to share their work with the community.
These types of experiences also impart to the students that their efforts and talents are being recognized, and that the community cares for them and their work, he added.
“We’re not just high schoolers messing around. We take it seriously,” said OHHS senior Alana Acosta. Acosta recently received the prestigious Governor’s Choice Award for her piece “Depixed” at the 43rd Annual Superintendent’s High School Art Show.
Dottie Sanders, AAUW member, retired art teacher and judge, said she anticipates it will be difficult this year, as in years previous, to choose just a few winners.
“The children do phenomenal work,” she said.