By Kyle Roberts
The Creatives at Work gallery in downtown Ruston saw a packed house Saturday, April 29, as Ruston High School’s talented art program hosted its senior art show in a curated studio setting that gave an authentic feel to a real world exhibition.
The Ruston High senior students honored were Emily Stutzman, Amanda Berg, Tullie Simpkins, Tristin Rudd, Janiyah Rushing, Brooke Jackson, Taryn Davidson, Maggie Ambrose, Samantha Bell, and Callie Stegall.
“This is a culmination of their work in high school; typically, their best pieces to really show their growth,” Ruston High talented art teacher Deana Revels said. “Most of them show more of their junior and senior pieces because they spend their first two years focusing on things like their skills and learning different mediums.”
Part of the show’s authenticity comes from the planning that goes into the show: the students are empowered to coordinate and plan from beginning to end with guidance from Revels.
“As a seniors, they work as a class and plan the show for most of the year,” Revels said. “I try to get them to make as many decisions as possible. It’s a great experience for them because it’s a real life experience.”
This year’s show was the first at Creative Exchange, as owner Dylan Sanders invited the class back in December to come talk about planning and curating a show, even going so far as the help the kids set the appropriate prices for their art pieces and set a 70/30 split, with the student getting to keep 70 percent of the price of the sold art, while the gallery took the remaining 30 percent.
“(Sanders) has kind of adopted the program, which has been so fantastic,” Revels said. “The students spent time with him and collaborated on developing a poster, on how to promote the show, and even sending out invitations. They really went through the whole process.”
Sanders echoed his appreciation for the students and the class as they worked toward a stellar show.
“Honestly, it was one of the best shows that we’ve had in our gallery,” Sanders said. “When you’re talking about young artists, and I’ll say this: I got several thank you notes from the students, and a lot of them said that they appreciated me showing them the worth of their art. Oftentimes, they’ll hear it from their teachers, but to have an outside perspective step in and tell you that you’re a worthy artist, it takes their confidence and skyrockets it.”
From there, a bond has been formed between Sanders and the Ruston High talented art program, with Sanders advocating for the school to be the recipient of a yearly $3,000 grant, courtesy of the Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation.
“When they brought the students over to see the supplies (at Creative Exchange), I just saw how excited everybody was about the different kids of art supplies that we had,” Sanders said. “I talked to Ms. Revels about it, and she just shared with me how limited their budget is for buying art supplies for their program. I didn’t really understand how she could teach an art class of the kind of budget she was using; let alone, I think she has more than 60 students in that program.
“So I began telling her that I was going to try to find a way to get some money into the program and enhance your program.”
Students in the talented art program have been tested in as early as the sixth grade and are given individual education plans. Louisiana is one of the only states in the nation that has funding for the program.