‘I think everyone is blown away:’ tenth annual Mann Art Gallery high school show opened Friday

(Left to right) Untitled by Tori Medynski, Cut Braids by Tia-Lee McCallum and Tribal Leader by Kieran Lanoie are three standout pieces of this year's Mann Art Gallery High School Juried Art Show, curator Lana Wilson said. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The Mann Art Gallery is highlighting the work of local teenagers with its latest exhibition.

The tenth annual High School Juried Art Show (HSJAS) opened at the gallery Friday, celebrating work from students in grades 9 through 12. The show is returning as a hybrid in-person and digital exhibition this year after going forward as an online-only show last year when the gallery was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 100 pieces were submitted to this year’s show. After jurying, 90 pieces were selected to be shown, including 24 digital pieces. Digital pieces can be found on the gallery’s website as well as projected on the gallery wall.

The show’s opening reception and awards night will be premiered as a pre-recorded video celebration next Friday.

“I am thrilled that so many physical works are back in the gallery for the art show this year,” said Gallery Educator Lana Wilson, who curated this year’s exhibition.

“I expected that the vast majority of artworks would be photographs submitted online. I was blown away when the opposite happened. That was really exciting.”

Wilson said that as she went about curating the show, certain themes emerged. While there is always a selection of portraits in the high school show, this year she said there were even more than usual.

She started by trying to spread out the portraits across the entire show but eventually settled on displaying them together, resulting in two entire walls of portrait work.

That fits well with the other show slated to open at the gallery this month, They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds by Carol Wylie. That exhibition, consisting of 18 portraits of Jewish Holocaust and Indigenous residential school survivors, will open on April 16.

“I realized the (high school show) portraits need to be right out there in the front gallery because Carol Wylie’s show is all about portraits,” Wilson said.

“This is a perfect way to tie the two shows together.

One wall of portraits is prominently displayed in the gallery’s atrium, which they refer to as the project space, and will be the first thing visitors see when they visit the Mann. The second wall is displayed in the education studio.

“When we’re teaching classes, we really get to be friends and be intimate with the portraits in this (teaching) space,” Wilson said.

“The other wall of portraits really greets people when they come into the gallery.”

Wilson included pieces on the portrait walls that were also subsets of the genre — closeups of eyes and faces.

She also included portrait pieces that aren’t explicitly portraits, such as images from manga, portraits drawn from the covers of movies and novels, a portrait of the musician YUNGBLUD, and fantasy-inspired images.

Wilson was also impressed by the variety of techniques and media used in this year’s show. She gave kudos to high school art teachers for using professional techniques such as linocutting and for enabling students to create pottery fired in a kiln. There are 14 sculptures submitted this year, Wilson said.

“I didn’t know what to expect in terms of media this year because I didn’t know how many students would have access to different types of media depending on whether they were in school,” Wilson said.

“Whatever their situation, it looks like these students were able to experiment with a variety of media. I’m very excited about seeing the professional tools and media used.”

Pieces in the show range from charcoal, graphite and pencil crayon drawings to watercolour, acrylic and even oil paint. It also features clay sculpture, collage and mixed media art.

Wilson credited some schools with getting creative, such as Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI), faced with material restrictions due to the pandemic, and adapting by making a series of cardboard masks.

Now that the show has opened, it’s up to Wilson to determine which pieces will win awards. For curators, that selection is often the hardest part of their jobs.

“It’s always an interesting question about what makes a good artwork, or what makes an artwork have an impact,” Wilson said.

“One of the things we can look at is technical proficiency, though it’s not the only thing that stands out. It is something that artists of all ages can be really insecure about, especially when folks are still learning. I was very impressed to see pieces of very high technical ability.”

Like the annual winter festival show, which ran before it, the HSJAS is a means of showcasing all of the area’s talent. Pieces at the HSJAS came from PACI, Carlton, Wesmor, St. Mary and WP Sandin in Shellbrook. Some didn’t come with a school name attached, so even more schools could be represented.

“I think everyone is blown away by how much local talent we have here,” Wilson said.

“By how much people love being artistic and creative and how many people are able to create works that really speak to others in terms of their quality. People are always saying ‘this is beautiful,’ or ‘people have so much talent. I think this really helps Prince Albert have pride in itself. We all know that there are people who say disparaging things about Prince Albert and unfortunately some of those people live here. I think that shows … can celebrate the community and really show that we have great people here … who love what they do and we have some incredibly talented people who enjoy being creative.”

Wilson’s hope now is that people come by to take a look at the artwork, especially the people who created it.

“I want the high school show to help welcome people into the gallery,” Wilson said.

“The Mann Art Gallery is trying to help all different people in the community feel welcome and comfortable. Some people are intimidated to come to the gallery, some people don’t know that the gallery exists. Some people find that they haven’t felt represented or that work in the gallery isn’t representative of who they are or the experiences they’ve had. I hope that these high school students and their friends and family members will feel that now they have a reason, if they didn’t before, to come to the gallery, to feel welcome here and to feel proud to have their work framed and hanging on the walls of a professional gallery.

“The winter festival show helped to bring people back to the gallery after COVID. We know that winter festival really cheered people up, and we hope that the high school show can do the same.”

The HSJAS runs until May 29. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. Admission is free.