Visual arts students gain different experience during Chalk the Walk

Students created their artworks on the concrete surfaces outside the school building during Chalk the Walk, May 31.

By Matthew Liebenberg

Visual arts students at Swift Current Comprehensive High School used their talent in an informal setting outside the classroom to share their art in a public way.

They created their artworks over several hours on the concrete surfaces outside the school’s main entrance during the second annual Chalk the Walk, May 31.

Visual arts teacher Mandy Herrick said the event was started last year to provide an outdoor art experience to students.

“I think it’s a really special part of their high school experience,” she said. “They get celebrated by the staff and encouraged by their peers. So I think it’s just a really special day for them and for me and for the whole school. It brings us all together.”

Last year’s inaugural event was smaller and involved Grade 10-12 students, because Herrick only had one semester with students after taking over the visual arts program. This year’s event was larger and open to Grade 9-12 students.

“This year any former art students could also apply to participate, even if they’re not presently in an art class,” she said.

Around 75 students participated in the event. Other students and staff came around throughout the day to watch them at work and to see their completed art.

“This year we also invited the parents to come from three to four o’clock, just to pop in to see the arts and take pictures,” she noted. “And then we displayed other projects right inside the building. So they can pop in and see those as well. Last year I was cleaning up and around five o’clock I could see all these vehicles pulling up and they were all coming to see their students’ artworks. So I thought we should invite them and have them as part of the day.”

The other projects displayed inside the school building were various artworks created by students during their regular classroom activities, including portraits by Grade 10 students and expressive pencil colour works by Art 30 students.

Grade 12 student Chrissa Tordil drew a character she created before, but for this event she used bold colours.

“It represents freedom and just happiness, because of the bright and vibrant colours,” she said. “I use a lot of pastels, because her life in the beginning is like a princess and then later she would become a knight. … That transition is not fully in development yet, but something traumatic does happen to her, which is why there’s like a black halo around her.”

She has been taking art classes since Grade 9, but she has been creating art long before then.

“It’s very enjoyable,” she said. “It’s very relaxing and I have a lot of fun whenever I do it.”

She also participated in last year’s inaugural Chalk the Walk and she felt it is a good event to have at the school.

“Everyone’s having a lot of fun,” she said. “Everyone’s showing their skills. It’s really fun.”

Grade 12 students Anndria Smuk and Earl Ubongen collaborated to create an art piece about one of their favourite singers, Lana Del Rey.

“We were just trying to represent the music style we like, because I’m a singer too,” Smuk said. “Music is super important. So mixing art and music together are really important.”

Ubongen added that it was a fun thing to do and a way to express their gratitude to a singer they really enjoy. Their artwork was mostly in black and white pastel, which was a reference to a recent album cover used by Del Rey. They used a lot of colours in their art at last year’s Chalk the Walk and therefore wanted to do something different this time.

“We thought it’d be a little bit more of a challenge to see how we could shade it, and to see what more we could do with the values and all the shapes and stuff,” Ubongen explained.

He has been drawing since before high school to express his emotions and it is a way to unwind. Smuk started to create art in Grade 9 to think and reflect about things.

Both felt that Chalk the Walk is a good event for students. Ubongen said it is a great way to relax and to ease the year-end tension of exams while also expressing themselves.

“I think it’s a really good way for everyone to show off their skills and the work that they’ve done throughout the year, because it’s a good end of year event,” Smuk mentioned.

Herrick noted that the projects for the event are assessed and students also do a self-assessment at the end to see how it went for them. Some guidelines are discussed with students beforehand.

“We talk about some themes that translate well to this medium,” she said. “We also talk about public art and how we have to let go of certain things once you put it out there. It’s sort of in the world and letting go of that control is also just part of being a public artist.”

This event gives students a different perspective on the process of creating their art, because they have to work on a concrete surface in an outdoor setting while others are watching the process. It helps them to appreciate their strengths as artists and to apply it in a different situation.

“The scale is also a really big change for them and how physical the day is,” she noted. “They’re all sore and tired and dirty by the end of the day, and so it’s an interesting sort of experience in that way as well.”