A Decade of Arts

by Britt Aamodt
Contributing writer

April 26, a student waited at the exit of Elk River High School. As people left, she asked them to give her one word — just one — to summarize their experience at the school. The responses went something like this: “Great,” “Perfect,” “Awesome” and “Unbelievable.”

Mug art by Ashley Baker.

Contrary to what high school faculty may have hoped, the praise was not for their dynamic lectures on plant photosynthesis or for their carefully prepared multi-choice tests. Sorry. Maybe next year, teach.

The hoopla, hype and whiz-bang exuberance were reserved for one of the most diverse arts events of the Elk River social calendar, Evening of the Arts.

By “arts,” organizers and participants meant all the arts. If a high school student could sing it, act it, rap it out in verse, dance or paint it, mold it in clay, hang it on a wall, project it on a screen or play it in a band, that art had a spot in the evening’s lineup.

The American Indian Education Program answered questions about Native American culture. The painted buffalo skull is a Dakota artifact called a shield.

The annual event showcases high school student art and performance and recognizes contributors for their hard work and creative achievement, says Arts Magnet director Rana Nestrud, who with over a dozen faculty members put together this year’s bash.

Drawing by senior artist Karli Jopp. Next year, she plans to study art education in college.

Beginning with the ERHS Concert Choir at 5 p.m., there were music and dance performances in the commons area. Zabee Theater housed digital and video screenings. The 2D art room supplied live music and a display of winning entries from the Patriotic Art Contest.

Elsewhere, ceramicists sat down at potters wheels and pounded clay on dusty worktables, providing demos to parents, alumni, siblings and community members. While along the senior lockers corridor, poets and spoken word artists played with the English language.

A watercolor by Katherine Opsahl

Even the student posted at the door with her clipboard had an artistic mission: to collect the one-word responses in a large “Wordle” using participant input.

Nestrud, trying to be everywhere at once and finding it impossible, admits the show has exploded in size and scope since its humble beginnings.

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“When we first started Evening of the Arts, around 1994, it was a small visual arts show in the library,” she says. “Maybe there was a little media. Maybe someone played the piano. Now it’s evolved so that we have the visual arts as well as dance, instrumental music, cultural displays, spoken word, art demos and theater.”

Senior Zulema Fiores hoped the Mexico table informed guests about the diversity of Mexican culture.

The cultural displays, fittingly tucked into a space designated the United Nations of ERHS (actually the foyer), represented nationalities from around the globe, and many with ties to local students.

Senior Zulema Fiores staffed the Mexico table and hoped that her display would “teach people that not all areas of Mexico are the same. I come from Chihuahua, which isn’t anything like Mexico City.”

Passers-by got a chance to sample Mexican candies shaped like ears of corn and handle a muñeca (doll) from Chihuahua, the type Fiores’ grandmother used to make.

Photography by Samantha Phillips.

The Mosaic Club, an after-school club organized around the appreciation and understanding of multiculturalism, spent the past year studying Japan. So, among the cultural artifacts arranged on the table, nestled a bowl of a typical Japanese treat, wasabi peas.

Every year, something new is added to the evening’s offerings. This year it was a collection of book art, which students created with the guidance of a resident book artist.

Middle school students Eliza Lopez Del-valle and Elona Komonash dropped by the high school event to support their older siblings. Photo by Britt Aamodt

Parent Jill Jopp, whose daughter, Karli, had a number of drawings in the gallery show, thinks Evening of the Arts bears testament to Elk River’s support of the arts.

“It helps that we teach arts in the elementary and junior high schools here,” she says. Those early lessons lay the foundation upon which the high school classes build and she says that fostering of creative experience “is a real strength of our community.”

Senior Adam Watzke's ceramic sculpture. The sculpture on the right was designed for an exhibit based on the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and was sold to a patron at the earlier MLK exhibit.

To senior artist Adam Watzke, the evening is all about self-expression.

“If you didn’t have art, you wouldn’t be able to express yourself in the same way,” he says. “You work years to put your art together, and when you see it in Evening of the Arts, it’s like finally all that hard work paid off.”


Twin Lakes developing tradition of its own

Josh Kane with son Elijah Kane made some art together at the Twin Lakes arts night.

More than 1,000 children and adults attended a Twin Lakes Elementary School arts night April 27.

The theme of the annual show was “Around the World,” so projects and a concert featured different cultures.

Leah Braun, Aisley Barrette, Zoe Freeby and Skye Maher working on make-and-take projects.

There were guest performances by Mark Barnier, an Elk River man who played the bagpipes and Rince na Chroi, an Irish dancer group from St. Paul. There were also concerts by the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade choirs. One song even incorporated the use steel drums from an iPad app.

A Make-n-take Craft Bazaar offered children and adults a sample of multicultural art projects.

Irish Dancers Rince na Chroi were one of special guest performances.

QR codes amongst the art displays connected to students explaining artwork and culture.