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StudentWorks serving budding valley artists a PORTAL into the professional world

Photographer Ben Ingham with his still life Addiction top part of the Studentworks exhibition in PORTALS. - Peter W. Rusland
Photographer Ben Ingham with his still life Addiction top part of the Studentworks exhibition in PORTALS.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Feeding Cowichan's arts menu with young talent is aim of StudentWorks.

The multi-media show, spiced with fresh work from 11 local artists, runs Jan. 26 at PORTALS gallery at the Island Savings Centre.

Patrons can sample painting, dance, sculpture, music, photography, printmaking and installed work by pupils hosted by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council's Youth Outreach Program.

"These young people have been so supportive of each other," said the program's Wendy Robison.

Her view was quickly backed by comments from several proud artists at PORTALS Saturday.

"It's helpful for our portfolio, receiving some arts supplies, and if you want to go into an arts career this show's helpful to develop your creativity," said printmaker Eilishia Huston, 17, of Island Oak High School.

Her five self portraits lining one wall were flanked by a collection of photos from lensman Ben Ingham, 16, who was mentored by News Leader Pictorial master-shooter Andrew Leong.

"Having your work in the spotlight is an opportunity none of us have had before," the Cowichan High hoop-scorer said.

"It's an amazing opportunity for young artists from our area to get their work out there.

"This show is one of the few events where our art isn't understated and undervalued."

Painter Shiyu Huang agreed.

"Being a student, it's not really common for young people's art to be appreciated."

But the arts council aims to trumpet teen talent through mentoring and money gained from program sponsors such as the TD Bank, said CVAC boss Judy Brayden.

"Our goal is to get students' portfolio to a professional level by the end of Grade 12," she said, noting January is StudentWorks month.

"Our main criteria is a (student) commitment to this project."

Parental approval is part of that commitment too.

Pupils work independently, during a two-year stint with CVAC, on artwork outside of school classes, sports, music and other pursuits.

CVAC members provide critiques, advice on framing and curating, mentoring and more - with impressive results.

"People are surprised high school students can be be so creative," said Robison.

"The Wall is just stunning," she said of Kelsea Moore's installation, mask and print masterpiece filling PORTALS' back wall.

Fernanda Ramirez, 16, a Mexican exchange student, and flamenco dancer, studying at Queen Margaret's School, was stoked about showing her costumed dance skills.

"They're recognizing all of the different art styles. We're not the same age or country, but the arts council is recognizing all of us."

Other youth artists in the program include monologue-installationist Lahna Lampson, oil painter Adrienne Saari, songwriter Hannah Morten, painters Kate Lischeron and Amber-lee Bartlett, and sculptor Shane Batten.

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