Eye for detail: Art school opens students to a whole new world

Art student Sandra Zelensky is among the artist displaying her work at Christina’s Art School Year End Art Show. Jason Kerr/Daily Herald.

Sandra Zelensky never knew she had it in her.

The Prince Albert artist was no stranger to art classes. Her two daughters were regulars who learned their craft under local art teacher Christina Thoen. She always loved being creative, but it took Zelensky a while to take the next step and immerse herself in the art world as a creator, not just a supporter.

“Christina said, ‘you have two daughters who have a lot of talent. They must get it from somewhere. You should be taking art,’” Zelensky said with a laugh. “She finally broke me down, so I did, and I’ve absolutely loved the journey.”

That was 10 years ago. On May 25, Zelensky was one of many art school students on hand to unveil the Year End Show at Christina’s Art School in Prince Albert. Zelensky said it’s a bit surreal to look back and see how far she’s come.

“It’s opened up a whole new world for me,” she said. “I always loved to be creative, but I never knew I had this in me.”

Zelensky’s work is among 70 pieces on display at the Year End Show, which runs throughout the summer until mid-September. Zelensky said she’s proud of herself, and her fellow artists for not only creating their work, but putting it out there for public critique.

“Anyone, especially a tenured (student), but even a first or second year student who comes and sees that their work is on a wall in the gallery and on display, that takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, because you are your own worst critic,” she said.

Longtime Prince Albert art teacher Christina Thoen, the owner of Christina’s Art School, is even more impressed with her students. Like Zelensky, Thoen said it takes courage for students to put their art on display.

She said it’s important for them to have a chance to show their work off, even if it can be a little daunting.

“If their art just always sits in their art bag or in their sketch book and never ever gets framed and up (on display), I would compare that to someone who practices soccer all the time, but never actually puts on their soccer jersey and gets out there and plays a game,” she explained. “It’s the essence of what being an artist is.”

The exhibit features a variety of drawings and paintings with work from artists ages eight to 80. As an instructor, Thoen said it’s fulfilling to see her students take pride in their work, and receive appreciation from art lovers.

“It brings tears to my eyes at the same time, because I know the amount of work these students have put into their work, especially the ones who have been there for years,” she said. “I’ve seen them through all their struggles, and I’ve seen them become amazing in their talent continuing to develop over time. It’s just absolutely fabulous.”

Artist Phoenix Galbraith stands in front of a wall displaying artwork she’s created over the past 10 years at Christina’s Art School in Prince Albert.

Longtime artist and class member Phoenix Galbraith is one of those students. The recently graduated St. Mary High School student started taking classes from Thoen when she was eight years old. Now, she’s preparing to head off to university, where the art classes will serve her well, even though she’s taking medicine, not painting.

“Christina is such a joyful person. She has a very bubbly personality, and she’s kind of been a constant in my life,” Phoenix said. “I’ve known her (and) I’ve seen her every week for an hour for the last 10 years since I was so young and it’s really been a positive influence on me to learn how to be more positive and how she sees the world in a more artistic way.”

Galbraith’s oldest piece of art on display is from those early years as an eight year old, when her parents had to encourage her to keep drawing and painting. These days, she needs no encouragement. She said creating art has a calming effect, and an almost therapeutic quality.

Like Zelensky, Phoenix said she’s proud to have her work on display, even the ones from her early years.

“I have eight up right now, and six of them were in my room before, so I’m kind of used to seeing them all together, but I like that they’re displayed here for everyone to see,” she said with a chuckle. “It makes me really proud. I’m going to take some of my friends here just to be like, ‘I’m the 10th year student here. This is what I did. These are my accomplishments from my 10 years.’”

Christina’s Art School is located at 625 Branion Drive in Prince Albert.

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca