- Letters to the Editor
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The Downey High School Art Department has been forming a collaborative relationship with Stay Gallery to support the artistic endeavors of the youth in our community. Working closely with the gallery will give us the opportunity to show our students the work of some very talented artists while providing inspiration, motivation and a place for our students to gain community and cultural perspectives outside of the classroom.
This week, I was joined by fellow Downey High School art teacher Darelle Nikaj and roughly 350 students for a field trip to Stay Gallery where we viewed the two exhibits they had on display. “Bones of Steel” by artist Christian Castro, and “Non-Toxic Revolution” by various urban artists (including Shepard Fairey), were museum-class pieces and I was thoroughly impressed with the caliber of work we saw. My students were dazzled by the robotic sculptures and had a million questions for the gallery’s director, Valentin Flores. Mr. Flores was so gracious and accommodating to all of the students. He posed thoughtful questions and really made our students consider the ideas and purpose behind the artworks; an essential part of art appreciation.
Today, I had my students do some writing to talk about the art they saw at the gallery. I found that the two exhibits were very appealing to the students. The common theme in the writing was that the work was “really cool” and “unique.” Many students expressed interest in seeing the Bones of Steel Exhibit if it returned to the gallery or if more pieces were added. The students were inspired by the idea that this artist took miscellaneous parts of anything and put them together to make these life-like robots. The giant crab sculpture was a particular favorite because the artist used car parts to make something so incredibly contradictory to reason. Many of us half-expected the crab to start moving and climbing the walls. I was telling Mr. Flores that I avoid calling real art “cute” but something about the robots was undeniably endearing.
While all students were captivated by Castro’s work, other students felt that they really connected with the Non-Toxic Revolution exhibit. They articulated quite passionately, about how the message made them re-think what they put in and on their bodies. One of the works was especially compelling and brought a lot of attention to the students. It was a plaster and paper mache cast of a human torso. The artist, Shepard Fairey (in partnership with Keep A Breast Foundation) created the artwork as part of the Non-Toxic Revolution Exhibit to bring awareness about breast cancer. The students noticed the little details and wanted to start seeing more paper mache artwork in the gallery and are eager to start their own paper mache projects in my class.
As an art educator in our community, I am thankful that we have such a wonderful little spot to showcase local talent and creativity. There are many great things about the gallery, but one that is most appealing to me is that it is walking distance to the school. The students can just walk there to appreciate the artwork whenever they want. (Follow that up with a short trot to Porto’s and that’s an ideal way to spend the afternoon.)
I am looking forward to working with Stay gallery all year in order to bring the gallery and the students together. We will be collaborating with Stay Gallery to plan an end of the year festival following the Downey High School Spring Art Show. The Gallery will present the “DHS Arts Festival” as a kind of Best-of-the-Best of student artists at Downey High. Keep your eyes and ears open for a gallery showing that will astonish you. You will be quite surprised and delighted at what these teenagers can do.
Art teacher, Downey High School
Through Stay Gallery I have experienced a growth in the community of the arts in Downey. Not particularly in the technicality of the work of the different artists featured there but more of the passion and interests of the locals and supporters.
Stay Gallery is giving a positive example to the next generation of artists to follow their dreams and to work hard for it every day. From day one up until now, Stay has grown into so much and has provided so many different opportunities for so many. It is a huge honor to have become part of the history which Stay has established and is very exciting to see where Stay will lead our next generation.
Stay Gallery is the greatest thing to happen in Downey. Would love to participate in the Downey Avenue Artwalk.
Published: Nov. 21, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 32