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High Energy 29 returns to Art Gallery of St. Albert

The student-centred visual arts show features 120 works of art including paintings, sketches, ceramics, printmaking, mixed media and fashion

For the past school year, local high school art students have been madly creating in preparation for High Energy 29 which opened at the Art Gallery of St. Albert. 

More than 200 visitors attended the visual art opening reception on May 2. They viewed 120 works that express the thoughts, feelings, values and concerns of students from Grades 10 to 12. It revealed their hopes, dreams, fantasies and fears. If anyone is curious to see what adolescents think, High Energy 29 is a fountain of information. 

“You see their friends, their family, their passions, their curiosity, their explorations. It’s about navigating these great feelings. I see an incredible amount of play and enjoyment,” said Emily Baker, gallery curator.  

Aspiring artists from five schools participated: Bellerose Composite High, École Alexandre Taché, École Secondaire Paul Kane High, St. Albert Catholic High (SACHS) and Outreach High School. Some are novice artists. But even at this young age, others have spent years honing their craft. 

“I get to see everything at the school before it comes here,” Baker said. “But I’m always blown away, and they seem to get better and better each year. And the teachers are amazing pushing wonderful things out of students in crafts where they can find their own voices.” 

The exhibition is peppered with paintings, sketches, ceramics, printmaking and mixed media such as Tristan Dupuis’ Sweet Treats, a cupcake tree decked with goodies made from cardboard, sponge, paper, wax, buttons and dried flowers. 

A handful of students submitted 3-D works. One of the most striking in its simplicity is Elisa Weatherly’s bust titled Warrior, a painted mannequin with Greek-styled embellishments. 

But it’s the jaw-dropping Fashion Beyond Words that leaves most visitors temporarily nonplussed by the unexpected. Nyah Rushton has taken a mannequin and created a life-size flowing, strapless ballgown worthy of the red carpet made entirely from newsprint. 

“I’m floored by the skill,” Baker said. 

Instead, Rebekah Lupaschuk painted an image of a teenage girl who appears to have acne. The painting is titled Inner Confidence, Outer Beauty. 

“It’s a beautiful picture of teenagehood. She has freckles. She has acne, and she seems to be staring right at you. It’s a beautiful, honest portrait. It’s confident but not overly varnished or filtered.” 

Grade 10 student Janelle Müller instead sketched a well-worn, huggable doll dubbed Nostalgia

“It’s an incredible old cloth doll. The technique is excellent. And in her (Janelle's) treatment, you feel the doll was played with and loved. 

Grade 11 student Brianna Ronald’s Campfire instead takes the viewer to a summer night’s adventure in the dark. 

“It feels like a window to the outdoors. Painting a campfire is difficult, but it looks so real you can almost smell it. You even see the wind blowing the embers. One of the jurors said if you turn off all the lights in the room, you could still feel the campfire glow.” 

Each year, the gallery assigns students a Challenge Project. For 2024, students were asked to create an installation using an environmental lens. SACHS students created a series of small clay-fired toys. Bellerose art students opted to design a mobile out of jar lids while Paul Kane students used 300 tea bags and used recyclables for their mobile. 

“The students are amazing. The exhibition expands the perception of youth and teens. There are a lot of incredible artists and they’ve taken on the challenges of professional artists. They’re amazing.” 

High Energy 29 runs until Saturday, May 25. A free in-person tour with Baker takes play Wednesday, May 15 at noon, 19 Perron St.. In addition, Barker will lead a Facebook virtual tour on May 22 at noon.

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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