Students taking Advanced Placement (AP) Studio Art at Asheville School recently had the opportunity to visit local studios, galleries and architecture firms to connect with professional artists in Asheville -- thanks to the school's new community arts initiative.
"The opportunity to go out in the community and meet professionals in the area of each student's interest has been informative and inspiring," said Asheville School Fine Arts Chair Kathy Leiner. "These field trips offer a glimpse into diverse approaches to creative work, new perspectives on the creative process, and various ways to work within the field of the arts."
Encouraging students to learn directly from career artists provides powerful insight into the world of professional art, Leiner said.
"It's not every day that I get to meet a fresco painter," said Asheville School senior David Zheng. Zheng researched American painter Ben Long and personally reached out to Long to make the school field trip possible. "I've always thought these 'old masters' no longer walk on this earth, but Ben Long proved me wrong. This journey back in time reminded me of why I love Renaissance art: the carefulness and dedication to perfection and beauty. [Long] inspired me to continue working in a much more artistic way."
Being located in one of the most vibrant arts communities in the Southeast is a huge advantage for Asheville School's students, Leiner said. The class visited the studios of Ben Long and Michele Mitchell-Ostlund, the Haen Gallery and Blue Spiral Gallery, and the offices of Samsel Architects. Students reflected on each trip and thought through how their experiences might be applicable to their own portfolios and aspirations.
Peyton Campbell 2018, who organized the trip to Michele Mitchell-Ostlund's studio, said that Mitchell-Ostlund's perspective gave her a new view on how to make her artwork truly honest. "I think it was fascinating to hear about an artist who had gone through so much art school and had such a genuine perspective on what she does," Campbell said. "Visiting her studio gave me a new outlook on what it means to be an artist."
Students also learned about the marriage of art and science when they visited Samsel Architects. Toma Nikotina 2018 organized the trip and was excited to learn more about what architecture looks like in day-to-day practice.
"Our conversation made me realize how significant architecture is in our lives," Nikotina said. "We use it every day without even knowing how much thought goes into all the little, seemingly insignificant details that make us feel a certain way in a building. The Samsel Architects studio visit was an extraordinary insight into architecture. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn more about something that interests me so much."
Asheville School Art Instructor Casey Arbor says that hearing from professional working artists had a major impact on the students' techniques and perspectives. "When the students were in a working studio they could see the intentional placement of materials and the artists' movements around the space," Arbor said. "This was undeniably beneficial for their own studio practice. When they came back to campus and resumed their own work, it was clear the field trips had an important impact on both their technical skills and the intentional honing of content."
Ivana Xu 2018, who planned the trips to Blue Spiral Gallery and Haen Gallery, said that seeing the wide range of artwork on the trips made her realize there was no one style she should strive for. "The most important part is to create and not be scared of imperfection," she said.After the field trips, artists visited Asheville School to advise students as they worked on their own pieces. You can see photos of AP Studio Art students' recent presentations on their work here.