Prior to 2017, Vashon High School had been without a consistent art program for five years. Knowing that their students needed arts education, they approached their neighbors at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM), an Arts and Education Council grantee, to see if they could create the art curriculum.

“We were honored to be of service in creating a project-based curriculum in arts education for such a venerable school right in our neighborhood,” said CAM Executive Director Lisa Melandri.

Now in the partnership’s third year, CAM has resident teaching artists lead introductory art and elective courses for freshmen and sophomore students.

During the past year, students worked on projects ranging from collage to zines, or short self-published magazines of their photography. This comprehensive program is under the direction of CAM School and Community Programs Manager Miriam Ruiz working in collaboration with Vashon instructor Tim Jennings.

“We’ve seen how this program has given students new and interesting ways to express themselves and feel empowered beyond a traditional arts curriculum,” said Ruiz. “At the beginning of the year, during the residency of local photographer Lois Ingrum, a student said, ‘I don’t feel like anyone really listens to me. Art is the one place where I can have a voice and have people pay attention.’”

In addition to hands-on art making, the students are also getting museum and gallery experience. Some of the Vashon students have had the opportunity to exhibit their work at CAM and in the community at UrbArts, a gallery in St. Louis that creates platforms for youth development and community. Four students are currently showcasing their photography as part of a selective group show, “Vashon through a Lens”, at CAM through Aug. 18.

The photography on view is part of a larger zine project led by teaching artist Tiffany Sutton, now in her second Vashon residency. The Introduction to Art students used the work of Paul Mpagi Sepuya, who also has an exhibit on view at CAM, as a stylistic reference point.

“Vashon through a Lens” is on view at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis through Aug. 18. Details are available here.

The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is a grantee of the Arts and Education Council. See more about where we invest your donations in the community.

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