CORTLAND — A sign on Lakeview art teacher Jeff Piper’s door reads, “The earth without art is just huh,” —and his five Art 4 students at Lakeview High School seem to agree.
“Art is an important way to discuss shared topics, but also just to make life more fun,” said senior Emily Bennett.
Along with Bennett, seniors Mason Parks, Grace Mazur, Isabella Shuster and Molly Stein have been recognized for their talents this year with awards and pieces shown in art shows locally and on the state and national levels.
The quintet came to art in similar ways — they realized first that they liked art, then found it was something at which they could excel.
Mazur said their principal, Larry Herrholtz, gave her some wise words last year: Everyone in the school needs a reason to be there.
“For me, it’s going to do art with other people,” Mazur said.
Mazur is the only student at Lakeview working in the medium of glass.
“I get injured every time. Every part of me has bled from this,” Mazur said of her stained glass work and jewelry. “The true definition of ‘blood, sweat and tears,’ (goes) into these pieces.”
The most unusual piece she created was a taxidermy scorpion playing poker with glass cards, she said.
Parks also works in a less common medium for high school students—ceramics. The school has a kiln to fire projects.
“I spend most of my time here in this studio,” Parks said of the room adjacent to Piper’s main classroom that the five students share.
He said he likes ceramics, and particularly sculpture, because he can create any form he can imagine.
Shuster began her art journey by taking prerequisite classes to get to a photography class — and along the way, realized she preferred other mediums. Her de ella art form of choice de ella is collage, where putting anything together can be art.
Stein prefers pastels — oil, chalk or pencil — and Bennett has dabbled in just about everything, including resin, but likes oil painting best.
“Through our classes, we discovered a medium that was unique and that we love,” Stein said.
ART IN SCHOOLS
Students in Art 4 took other art classes before getting to the independent study, where they set their own goals under the guidance of Piper.
Piper said in the past, I have noticed that even with talented and enthusiastic art students, they were often more interested in their independent projects at home. Art 4 gave them a space to work on those projects at school.
“I think that it’s really thrived because the kids are passionate about what they’re doing,” Piper said. “They’re using all these beginning classes and what they’ve learned… it’s really become special.”
The students agree that learning art in school has been formative for them; Bennett, who didn’t have art classes at her previous school, said she didn’t know she would be “an art kid” until she came to Lakeview. Now, she’s a national gold medalist in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards — an award granted to 1 percent of submissions in the national art and writing contest each year.
Bennett also won Best in Show at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center’s annual High School Art Show at the Medici Museum. Stein took second place and Shuster took third in that show, which included work from students in more than a dozen county schools.
“I think its really important that all schools have access to (art classes) so they can find the kids that really like art,” Bennett said.
Mazur and Parks can also speak to the importance of art in schools—both are planning to attend Youngstown State University in the fall to study art education.
“Some people are coming in for a single art credit and then finding that this has been one of the most important classes that you ever take because it teaches you more about yourself than you realize,” Mazur said.
“This classroom really provides a creative outlet for these kids to be excited about,” Piper said. “It tends to bring people together — and in some cases, I get aspiring artists.”
On Thursday, the Art 4 students’ art was shown again, this time right at home, at the Lakeview District Art Show at the K-8 building. The Art 4 students each had their own dedicated space, but Piper said each of his roughly 50 students had at least one piece in the show. Art from students in the elementary and middle schools was also on display.
The district has had the art show annually for more than a decade, but this year Piper wanted to make it a big event, adding food trucks and live music from Lakeview students and alumni.
The show was well attended by students and families, who wound their way through the cafeteria pointing to pieces and talking about the art. High schoolers’ pieces were judged and given awards.
“I think it’s good for them to have a special skill that people recognize,” Piper said. “(It) gives them a direction and it makes them realize that I can do something that I love to do and possibly make a living at it.”
Piper said he has graduates who took on careers in art and found success — not all of them, of course, but a “good handful.”
As for these soon-to-be graduates, Shuster plans to attend Ohio University to study hotel tourism, Stein is slated to study musical performance at Miami University of Ohio and Bennett is accepted at Columbia University, where she intends to study art and architecture.