Chilliwack high school artists on display

Grade 12 student Katelyn Wallace’s skeleton prints are part of the Art 33 exhibit in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery this month, which features the work of students from Sardis secondary, Chilliwack secondary, and G.W. Graham. - Dessa Bayrock
Grade 12 student Katelyn Wallace’s skeleton prints are part of the Art 33 exhibit in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery this month, which features the work of students from Sardis secondary, Chilliwack secondary, and G.W. Graham.
— image credit: Dessa Bayrock

What do a stack of ceramic cookies, a penciled cross-section of a ginger root, and a multicoloured print of skeletons have in common?

They’re all on display this month as part of Art 33 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery—a showcase of Chilliwack high school student art that ranges from photography to print-making to sculpture to plain old pen and ink.

And that doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Judy Hurley is the president of Chilliwack’s Visual Artists Association, which hosts the show in their gallery every year.

“You never know what you’re going to get,”  she says with a smile. “Each instructor gives their own spin, and then every student is individual too, so it makes for a really lively, different show every year.”

This is the fourth year they’ve held the show in the Cultural Centre gallery—a tall, white space filled with natural light.

“Most students haven’t been to this art gallery before, so when we tell them they don’t necessarily understand what it means until they get here,” says Sandra Wiens, an art teacher at Sardis Secondary. “When they see it, I think it’s quite exciting, because it’s such a beautiful gallery space with such beautiful white walls.”

Wiens says the work of almost a hundred students will be featured in the gallery by the time the exhibit opens.

For now, two days before the gallery opens to the public, they’re still in a flurry of set-up. One of her students unpacks ceramics from boxes while Wiens shores up the corners of a metal painting—an excellent example, she says, of what the show is all about.

“I like the projects where students really leave the track that we’ve set out for them and end up somewhere completely different,” she says, gently tapping the sheet of metal in her hands. The sides are bent back to give it a traditional canvas shape, and screwed into place. One side shows a cartoonish image of a boy playing with a toy airplane while a city burns in the background.

“This is one of our senior students, who wanted to experiment with a variety of media—different textures and things. So he got ahold of a buddy who works in the metal shop and they bent the metal for him,” she explains. “Most of the students are painting on canvas, and he’s saying , ‘Can I paint on metal?’”

Other works were chosen for the show after students turned mistakes into something that worked. Wiens points to a black-and-white print of a silhouetted girl with a bird on her shoulder.

“The student made a million ink copies of that, he was happy with this one, and right at the last moment a blob of ink happened,” she explains. “He was so frustrated . . . and I said, ‘Well, why don’t you incorporate it?’ So that’s where the birds came from—and I think that piece is stronger with the birds.”

Sardis secondary student Katelyn Wallace has a couple of pieces in the show. The multicoloured set of skeletons is hers, as is a bright yellow image of a girl falling through a giant field of flowers—a self-portrait. She’s graduating this year, and hopes to study art therapy.

When she looks at the show, Wallace says she sees creativity —and time.

“Lots of time,” she says with a laugh, “All the time that people have spent on these projects. A lot of kids spend their lunch hours in the art room, working on their pieces and getting ahead on the next projects.”

As the last of the sculptures go up on a shelf behind her, she says the exhibit shows off not just the students’ work, but all the work put in by the teachers.

“I’ve never really been included in anything like this before . . . . It’s really awesome,” she explains, flashing a smile. “But it’s our art teachers that really make it go together really well.”

• Art 33 opens on May 1 and runs until June 7 in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery. There is an opening reception at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 3; both the reception and the gallery are free to the public, and the gallery is open Wednesdays to Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.

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