Portfolio Shows, a pandemic, and parents

About 10 minutes into the second evening Portfolio Show of the year, Director of Visual & Performing Arts Katy Hills turned to a colleague with a question:

“Do you think we should do this every year?”

If it were up to the Colorado Academy students who attended the Friday night showing of “Off the Grid,” the answer for the future would be an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

“At night, it felt like a professional art gallery,” says Senior Rebecca Kerr. “Having parents come to their own show gave us more personal time to talk with them.”

The Friday night show was born of necessity and inclusion. At the beginning of the spring Portfolio Show season, it was clear that COVID-19 safety policies might allow the usual live lunch-hour shows but would reduce the number of people who could attend during a school day. To make sure parents would still have a chance to see their students’ art, the teachers— Stashia Taylor, Karen Donald, and Alecia Maher—added an evening show just for parents of the students in each Portfolio group.

“I am incredibly thankful for the CA teachers, staff, and administration for their creative problem-solving and generosity,” says Trish Cooper, mother of Senior Andy Guevara. “Our small gathering of student artists, dedicated teachers, and proud parents in the stunning evening glow of the Ponzio Center was a perfectly intimate and memorable affair, pandemic notwithstanding.”

“We are always amazed at the incredible talent of CA students,” adds Sara Carpenter, mother of Peter Carpenter. “We have been to several Portfolio Shows over the years and very much enjoy the opportunity to celebrate the students who put so much effort into their artwork. This year’s evening event was unique, because the darkness outside really highlighted the lighting on the art. We felt like VIPs having a private showing.”


Five artists, five styles

The guests at the Portfolio Show were treated to a variety of pieces created by five Seniors, described by the artists in their own statements.

  • Peter Carpenter “sought to showcase the beauty of nature through non-traditional realist landscapes.”
  • Charlie Westfall used photography to “represent the idea of nature being powerful as well as beautiful.”
  • Aaron Rice experimented with multiple ways to produce light in photography in order “to contrast the natural and the artificial.”
  • Rebecca Kerr tried long exposure photography to focus on “the idea of light and the painting effect I can create with it.”
  • Andy Guevara created characters—some life size—that represented “the friends that helped me realize my own voice throughout quarantine.”

A show of thankfulness and pride

There was considerable pride to go around at the Portfolio show. Teachers and parents were proud of the student work, but students were no less proud of themselves for overcoming obstacles to get to this night.

“At one point, I didn’t think there would be a live show, so I figured I better get ready to take pictures of my work for a virtual show,” says Peter Carpenter. “I’m so thankful we could have it in person, because it makes a huge difference in the culture of the show.”

For Rice, who used a DSLR camera on a tripod with a very long shutter speed to create distinctive photos, the Portfolio Show was the culmination of multiple years of work. “It’s important to have a goal to work toward, and it’s a great learning process,” he says. “Ms. Donald has high expectations, she treats you like a professional artist, and she has faith in how our art will turn out.”

Kerr’s original plan—to feature a series of black and white candid photos taken on the street—had to be scrapped because of COVID-19. People weren’t going out, and neither was she. Her new approach represented a compromise with COVID-19. Using long exposure, half of her photos were taken in the parking garage of the building where she lives. She discovered that “even in such a boring place, with lights, you can create colors and dimensions. The result were pictures that looked like paintings.”

“I never thought I was the kind of artist who could use a paint brush,” says Kerr. “But I proved to myself that, with a different outlet, I can be artistic and push myself outside my limits. As for the Portfolio Show, I didn’t want this night to end.”

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