PABLO — As the school year finished up, students gave final presentations Wednesday, June 2, and vibrant art lined the walls of Salish Kootenai College’s Three Woodcocks building for the one-day 2021 Inaugural SKC Arts & Design Student Showcase. Creative work from first- and second-year students in the fine arts program and also second year digital design students was showcased. SKC’s Art Department Chair Cameron Decker, Digital Design Technology Department Head Leslie Anderson, and SKC fine arts and digital design students hosted the art show.
The capstone art show showcased work from fine arts first year students Twilynn LopezdeVictoria-Caye, Quilanna Cheff, Anthony Chaney, Sarah Sandoval, and Henrietta Wolfblack. Second year students included Ian McRyhew, Joshua Kraude, Sacred Mahkuk, and Darian Blixt-Leo. Second year digital design technology students included Basil Kenmille, Anthony Chaney, and Ellie Costilla.
This was the first time SKC’s Art Department required students to do capstone projects and also the first time they had to display and present the capstone projects in front of an audience.
Decker said he modeled the capstone project off his master’s program he completed at the University of Montana. Students had check-ins every week along with their online class meetings, but they had to create a body of work using their own ideas.
The capstone class/project is now a requirement for first- and second-year fine arts students and for second year students in the digital design program. Capstone projects showcase each student’s work at the end of the school year and with this they are able talk about their individual processes in creating their pieces.
Over the past year these students have had to work remotely because of COVID. Teaching classes and learning online is already challenging enough but teaching art virtually has brought about added challenges. Decker said the department’s classes weren’t designed for an online setting, but the students overcame and exceeded their expectations.
Digital Design students expressed their feelings about their pieces and how art has helped them in life. One said he was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome when he was a child and that he used art as a coping mechanism and now he incorporates his love for art into his digital design work. Another student said she had a speech impediment as a child. She was able to express herself through art because it was another form of language for her. Expressing herself through art combined with digital design in a way become the students own language and she said it gives her more tools to communicate.
Fine art students talked about the challenges they faced while creating their pieces and how the process has helped them discover their own personal styles of art.
Sandoval’s series titled “Layers” is an acrylic portrait series that represents the layers of a person. She feels each individual adds layers over one’s lifetime and that as we get older, we realize what colors we want to emphasize and what were going to paint over. While working on the capstone project she was able to evolve and find her own unique painting style and found a new way to express herself she said. She told the audience the series was tough to commit to but once she did it was liberating.
Wolfblack’s series titled “Three Sisters” is a dedicated to her sisters and she said it took awhile to figure out what she wanted to do for her capstone. In the end the paintings came out exactly how she envisioned them. She explained to the audience that she took inspiration from their Cheyenne names and where she comes from to create the paintings that infuse both her Cheyenne and Crow traditions to tell a story of who she is.
McRyhew is working on a memorial bench for late Pat Hurley who was a SKC professor for more than three decades. Hurley touched the lives of many at the college. McRyhew said he didn’t get a chance to know her but through this memorial bench project he feels like he was able to learn a lot not only about her but also from her. He started this project over three years ago and it will be placed along the schools walking trail on campus. He hopes with the piece he’s able to capture her personality to honor her. The artist is creating mosaic pieces for the top, back, and front of the cement bench.
Blixt-Leo said through the capstone process and the online classes she was able to realize she could do art on her own without school.
Decker said that this past year having online classes was challenging and that the capstone show was a longtime coming. He was pleased with the success of the capstone show. “I loved it, I’m over the moon,” Decker said. “We’re here, people came to see it, and people heard our students. That’s what I care about the most. Students got to speak, and they’re being celebrated.”
Anderson said, “Overall today went great for being our first inaugural. The students went through a lot this year with COVID and the department head changing, they did well.”
Decker encourages people of all art levels to enroll into SKC’s fine arts program. The program doesn’t require a portfolio and he feels everyone has some sort of skill they can find with the college’s art classes because they offer so many. He said the capstone allows the students to build on their bodies of work and that they will continue to do this every year.
“With this year’s capstone a lot of the students figured out some processes that even surprised themselves,” Decker said.