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Art department to host annual K-12 art show

Visitors+admire+the+artwork+of+various+students+at+the+annual+art+show+at+NPHS+last+year.
Visitors admire the artwork of various students at the annual art show at NPHS last year.

Visitors admire the artwork of various students at the annual art show at NPHS last year.

Mr. Michael-John Werner

Mr. Michael-John Werner

Visitors admire the artwork of various students at the annual art show at NPHS last year.

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TOWAMENCIN- Art takes on many different forms, many of them quite unique from each other and sharing few similarities aside from the denomination of ‘art.’ Ranging in a wide array from sculptures to paintings, or photographs to film, art is vastly important aspect of our culture and a major way we as a species express ourselves. With these meanings in mind, it should come as no surprise why North Penn holds its annual Art Show, to allow students of all ages to give voice to their aspirations, loves, joys, and regrets.

“It’s the culminating activity for the entire art department, from K to 12,” said Michael-John Werner, the North Penn Art Department chair. “It’s a representation of pretty much everything the students have learned throughout the entire year, along with the chance to share that experience with the rest of the student body, their teachers, administrators, and all the people that come out to support it. It’s really like nothing else.”

It’s a representation of pretty much everything the students have learned throughout the entire year, along with the chance to share that experience with the rest of the student body, their teachers, administrators, and all the people that come out to support it.”

— NP Art Department Chair Michael-John Werner

Currently, Werner teaches the classes of AP Art History, Animation 1 and 2, as well as a handful of independent study students. In years past, however, he has also taught several other classes, one of which being Black and White Photography, a class that students cannot even take today due the lack of dedicated dark room for photo development.

“The position isn’t too different from any other department chair in the high school,” Werner said. “It’s not glamorous at all. But it’s in some respects it’s a bridge between teachers and administration. In that sense, it can kind of facilitate a little bit of communication, which I think everyone could benefit from.”

Although, the job does not award much, the station of department chair is packaged with some favorable benefits, namely being able to watch from year to year as the show expands to encompass even more classes and give more students a chance to demonstrate their artistic talents and passions.

“We try to get every student to participate and to make sure that everyone has at least one piece in the show. We do this because it really is the complete culmination of all of our classes, in all of our schools,” stated Werner.

A rather new addition to the show from years prior has been the animation courses, which were implemented in 2013-2014 school year. While the course is new and North Penn is still learning how to teach it, animation students do not show any lack of zeal for their work.

“I’m very proud of them,” Werner said in reference to his animation classes. “We’re still a fairly new part of the department, and with that we are still growing. The projects have evolved immensely since the beginning. If someone was in my class in the first year compared to what the class is now, the projects are completely different, the way it’s taught is completely different, what’s emphasized is different.”

Lining the halls of North Penn with resplendent art works, graphics, and sculptures may appear to be the only step in the Art Show’s construction. However, to say such a thing could not be farther from the truth. As early as September, the first project the students work on, the first time they pick up a pencil or shape clay, the show is beginning to form.

“If you really look at it from big picture to small picture, the whole project pretty much starts in the first weeks of school, when students are creating work that could be in the art show,” explained Werner. “So it’s a yearlong project, but it really kicks into high gear in April. That’s when we start trying to get all the students involved, choosing which of their work is shown so that the community can see all they’ve accomplished in a positive way.”

The month of April marks a turning point in the Art Department. With glee, as well a healthy amount of anxiety, students comb through each of their pieces in an effort to decide which they feel is worthy enough to decorate the walls. It is at this point when art teachers urge their students to take pride in the art that they created, whatever that may be.

“We want our students to be proud of their work, to feel that it’s good and that they created something worthwhile,” said Werner.

On the days of May 24 and 25, the work of North Penn art students can be seen prominently displayed throughout the halls. The talent of high school students, as well as young elementary children is demonstrated as judges explore the works in search of what they believe to the finest among them.

“I think that being a judge is one of the hardest jobs, any time you’re a judge in any art show and need to make those decisions is very challenging,” Werner said. “We have so much work and we don’t necessarily organize it very well for the judges. It’s not like all the digital photos are here and you can focus on that and so forth. So when the judges come here they have a great challenge.”

With the chaotic nature of the North Penn Art Show, being a judge is certainly a daunting task. However, in some cases, would-be applicants smile at the chance of judging the pieces.

The Senior Wall is almost like a college thesis. It’s the best of the best and it’s a celebration of a ton of hours. I mean, these kids work so hard and they deserve to be recognized in that way and it’s a great target for our younger students as well. Our sophomores and juniors can look at that and try to emulate that in their later years”

— NP Art Department Chair Michael-John Werner

“The judges we’ve had in the past were typically art teachers or even former students we’ve had come back. I know that last year, Mrs. Carrick invited Chris Bauer, who is an alumni, to judge and he came back to look at some of the photography works. And I really think it’s a good idea to have alumni come back and still be connected to the school,” explained Werner.

What’s more, the Art Show offers seniors a chance at a final farewell, displaying a sample of their portfolio on the circular walls of J-Pod. These works can be anything that the student has worked on throughout their years at North Penn and represents their growth as an artist.

“It’s hard to say if that’s really the highlight of the Art Show, because all the artwork is terrific and I don’t want to underscore anyone’s work at any level. But there’s nothing else like the Senior Walls,” said Werner.

To have a place on the J-Pod wall, students need to meet certain qualifications, such as taking a certain number of art courses as well as having enough diversity in their pieces. For this reason, not every senior art student gets a chance to make a Senior Wall.

“The Senior Wall is almost like a college thesis. It’s the best of the best and it’s a celebration of a ton of hours,” stated Werner. “I mean, these kids work so hard and they deserve to be recognized in that way and it’s a great target for our younger students as well. Our sophomores and juniors can look at that and try to emulate that in their later years.”

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Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA
Art department to host annual K-12 art show