Learn All About Center Grove High School’s Incredible Art Department
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Center Grove High School (CGHS) is fortunate to employ an art faculty of six talented teachers: Katie Gaff, Nathan Fry, Katie Hartford, Ryan Jones, Heidi Shackleford and Jackie Fowler. Heading up this group of teachers is the department chair, Jackie Fowler, who teaches Introduction to Photography and Advanced Photography. Now in her 21st year of teaching, Fowler loves her career because every day she grows as an artist and learns from her students and their life experiences.
“We have seen some of our students go through some challenging situations and for them to still come to school with a smile on their faces and be the most vulnerable they can be by creating art—that’s a success,” Fowler says.
Students can choose to take classes in a variety of mediums including fiber, ceramics, visual communications, photography and drawing. Each medium has its own challenges when it comes to teaching and learning.
“In a graphic design class, photoshop is a beast to figure out when first getting started. In ceramics, it’s tough to get the clay centered on the wheel the first couple of times,” Fowler says. “The key is that we do it together as a class so it’s not so overwhelming.”
In art, it’s not unusual for students to be hesitant to try something for fear it might not work out. The teachers tell them that art is a process and that they’ll make lots of mistakes but will learn from each and every one of them.
“As art teachers, we witness a giant curve of growth. For example, in photography, darkroom skills are new to most of my students,” Fowler says. “If these students never step foot inside a dark room again, they have still learned to problem-solve. Problem solving is what students can continue to apply in other areas of their lives.”
As a department, teachers enjoy teaching their students things that they have never done before such as working with film and other new media. As the year progresses, teachers relish witnessing their students blossom and create.
“We work to be encouraging to students who may not recognize their talents or abilities as well as cultivate the students who come to us with a desire to become better,” Fowler says.
As a sophomore at CGHS, Fowler took a photography course that changed the trajectory of her life. She credits her inspiring teacher, Mr. Roach, for encouraging her as an artist. Some of CGHS’s current students have had a similar experience to Fowler in which an art class has changed their life path. Such is the case for sophomore Regan Dugan, who takes drawing.
“I’ve now decided that I want to pursue art after graduation,” Dugan says.
Others use art as a calming outlet to their stressful academic day. Senior Kaiya Minniear, who is enrolled in Advanced Fiber & Ceramics, enjoys taking a break from the monotony of other classwork to physically create something that exercises her creativity.
“I also feel like I’ve developed more patience for detail,” Minniear says.
By taking ceramics, photography and AP art, senior Genevieve Konijisky has grown in a number of ways.
“Art no longer feels like an exploration into a foreign medium, but rather an extension of my own creativity,” she says. “It’s something I and only I own.”
This year, the art department moved into a new state-of-the-art renovated space at the school. The old pool was transformed into two floors of art space, including seven classrooms.
“We feel fortunate that our community and our school board invested in us having this space,” says Fowler, who, along with her colleagues, were invited to give their input to the architects during the design process.
“They trusted us to share what we needed to best facilitate our classes because obviously what ceramics needs is different from what photography needs,” Fowler says. “Therefore, our classes aren’t standard boxes by any means.”
This year the Young Artists and Writers Alliance awarded 35 art awards and 17 writing awards to CGHS students in the 2023 Regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition. Ten art students earned prestigious Gold Key awards in addition to nine Silver Keys and 16 Honorable Mentions. Art award winners include Jadelyn Redmond, Nasaria Becarra, Ellaina McCullough, Meleah Bolin, Chloe Lutz, Hannah Terry, Marlee McGowin, Cira Mazdai, Alora Johns, Emmalea Turner, Sophia Jones, Cole Hyzer, Hannah Ellinger, Kayli Adamson, Olivia Barnett, Caroline Kendall, Nolan Canfield, Taryn Kennedy, Moritz Wehr, and Keith Brandon.
Entries are judged by a panel of creative professionals based on how well the works exemplify the awards’ core values of originality, skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision. Gold Key award winners advance to the national competition.
On April 21 and 22, award-winning artwork from Scholastic will be on display in the CGHS west gym. The annual Festival of the Arts will showcase artwork from students throughout the district’s nine schools and include more than 3,000 pieces of art, including painting, ceramics, graphic design, photography, fiber and drawing. This exhibit is free and open to the public. Visitors should enter through Door 3 (west side of the building off of Morgantown Road).
The truth is that art isn’t about the medals or accolades but the way in which it transforms you from the inside out. Senior Olivia Barnett, who has taken drawing, painting, fiber arts, AP art, and ceramics, says that art has made her a more peaceful, kind, loving person.
“Art has also helped me on my journey of recovery from mental illness,” she says.
And that is beauty, goodness and healing in its purest form.