by DeeGee Lester
High school artists are accustomed to periodic opportunities to participate in group exhibitions showcasing the talents of students from various schools. But imagine the impact of your own project backed by a gift card for art supplies, personal one-on-one mentoring from a professional artist, and your own exhibition space in a museum, while still in high school.
Through an on-going partnership with Hillwood High School’s Academy of Art, Design and Communication, the Parthenon offers a recurring Artist-in-Residence program for selected students. For the most recent program, two Hillwood students, sophomore Dakota Collins and junior Josh Graham, offered their own unique perspectives on the Parthenon’s current exhibit, Gone South, by photographer Jerry Atnip. Exhibited in the Gallery Lobby, Collins offers three paintings while Graham provides a series of four photographs addressing the “Gone South” theme.
“My title (for the three-painting series) is All Roads Lead to Home, says Collins. “The triptych includes, as the center piece, the mountains where I grew up [in East Tennessee], flanked by my garden and a city scene. I tried to paint the South in the way I know it; to paint it as something beautiful.”
With painting supplies from project sponsor Plaza Artist Materials and Picture Framing, Collins moved beyond her preference for pen and ink washes to produce the three paintings. During the project she met with her artist mentor, Sue McGrew. “She really helped me better understand the technical aspects—color, design, and composition.” Knowledge of these elements will be important for Collins’s goal of a future in theater set design. In addition to the Parthenon project, Collins hopes for a second summer in the Apprentice Company for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival.
Josh Graham took on the challenge of presenting a student photography perspective on Atnip’s images for Gone South. “As I looked for shots that fit the theme, I wanted to consider the whole landscape image—both land and sky.” Graham says. “I’d be trying to find a shot, walking around, and suddenly just feel this is where I need to capture the image.”
Graham, too, had the opportunity to sit down with his mentor—the photographer himself—and together they discussed photography and selected the pieces for Graham’s exhibit. “It was exciting to work with Mr. Atnip, to get tips and hear his perspective—his outlook on the photos and the details within the photos.”
As he closes in on his senior year in high school, the experience helped to solidify Graham’s career choice. “It was a cool experience, and lately I’ve been thinking about photography as a career,” he says.
The student exhibits flank the entrance to Jerry Atnip’s East Gallery exhibition through August 27.