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These kids are hot: Art Gallery of St. Albert features youth art

For the month of May, the Art Gallery of St. Albert showcases High Energy 28, a collection of more than 120 pieces created by local high school students
A maiden rising from a pool of water is the subject of Sylvia Wen's Lily Pads. The acrylic on canvas is part of High Energy now on display at Art Gallery of St. Albert until the end of the month. EMILY BAKER

If anyone doubts the value of high school art programs, point them to High Energy 28, the Art Gallery of St. Albert’s art show currently on display during the month of May. 

“I feel High Energy gets better and better every year. Every time I feel they can’t do any better, they do,” said gallery curator Emily Baker. 

The annual high school visual arts exhibition currently showcases 120 plus pieces that include paintings, small sculptures, masks and paper floral arts. Grade 10 to 12 students who contributed are enrolled at Paul Kane High, École Secondaire St. Albert Catholic High, Bellerose Composite High, École Alexandre Taché and Outreach High School. 

Athletes join sports organizations. Budding actors hook up with theatrical groups. Baker says creating art at school and showcasing it in professional gallery celebrates students’ imagination and lifts their confidence. 

“Schools are a safe place to explore. There is no right or wrong. It’s a place where kids can express themselves and put their feelings into a creative piece,” she said. 

Each piece was built around specific classroom exercises designed to teach fresh perspectives and push boundaries. Students rose to the challenge to experiment, not only with different mediums, but with a wide assortment of subjects. No two works are remotely similar. 

While some artists showcased a sophisticated technique, others were rawer. But everyone shared a Canadian youth story whether it was about identity, introspection, family, friendship, resiliency, demons or pop art. And the variety of imaginative subjects ranged from stunningly beautiful to surreal and creepy. 

Two technically brilliant and extraordinarily imaginative paintings are Sylvia Wen’s Lily Pad acrylic painting revealing a young Asian maiden stepping out of pool of water filled with creepy blue faces floating like lily pads. 

“It feels super worldly like a dramatic sequence from a video game,” Baker said. 

A second attention-grabber is Rylie Landry’s Metamorphosis, an acrylic painting of a Black women whose hair is surrounded by fluttering butterflies. 

“This is part of a series of works with butterflies. It’s interesting the butterflies aren’t the focus.” 

Grade 12 student Dustin Taburno instead delivers a strong-social political message in IF-Bread, an oil on canvas. Two men are kissing, one dressed in green military fatigues, the other wearing green-gelled, spiky Mohawk hair. Behind them, a mushroom cloud detonates, a reminder of the explosive issues surrounding gender identity. 

Teachers also give students a fun exercise combining two dissimilar objects. Cloe Bamba goes all out with Catfish, an oil pastel introducing a new kind of animal – a fish head on a lion’s body. Em Cresswell’s Odd Juxtoposition instead has someone on a Victrola turntable playing a stack of pancakes, while Lily Malthouse’s Winged Cow shifts to a bovine flight. 

Another batch of visuals reveals how students tackle perspectives. For instance, Larissa Northcott’s Shoe is a graphite work of a teenager walking down the street. It’s seen from the distorted viewpoint of an ant on a sidewalk about to be stomped by a shoe.  

In closing, Baker said, “It’s all about hard work and skills building. And the level of art education is amazing. Teachers pull magic out of their kids. This is a space to celebrate artistic kids and give them a space to feel proud.”

An online exhibit of High Energy 28 is available at

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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