Young artists on display at mall exhibit

Ashland School District students will have their artwork displayed at the Young Artists Exhibit at the Rogue Valley Mall in January.

The event is sponsored by the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Rogue Valley Mall. The theme is "Life in the Rogue Valley."

The students of Ashland High School are excited about having their work seen and appreciated by thousands, according to AHS art teacher Mark Schoenleber.

"At an age when everyone is trying to control you, art is a beautiful thing," Schoenleber said. "Like adults, they are in a place of trying to figure out who they are."

Delores Nims of the RVUUF gathered about 90 percent of the artwork displayed at Ashland High School's Winter Fine Arts event.

"Winter Fine Arts was beautiful," Schoenleber said. "It was well-attended. They usually make about $10,000 for summer programs."

The festival raises money every year for Fresh Start — a summer program started by Schoenleber in which teachers select juniors and seniors to mentor new students.

"I noticed a pattern where kids felt that they were the only ones going through what they were going through. We started the program to show them they aren't the only ones," he said.

Schoenleber downplayed his involvement.

"I'm the guy who makes the mattes, the frames," he said. "I just create an environment where it's safe to make art. I really like to help the kids find themselves as artists. If I can get kids comfortable with their lives, they find, like I do, that it translates to everything that they do."

And how does he teach? "I yell a lot," he said.

Nims collected 63 pieces from Ashland High, including 33 canvases. More than 200 art pieces were collected from students grades 1 through 12 in the Ashland School District.

"I love supporting the imagination and creativity of kids," Nims said. "I don't think that children are told often enough the importance of creativity and imagination. They are skills they will need to solve problems later in life."

Christina Shulters, 17, is one of the students who will be featured in the exhibit. Each student is limited to one entry, so Shulters submitted a large oil and acrylic portrait of a fellow schoolmate. "She's an artist and senior. She was an idol of mine, so I wanted to do a painting of her. She's hot."

Being stuck indoors a lot of the time, Shulters developed a passion for art.

"It was time to do something productive," Shulters said. "I threw this one out of the window a few times. I have a love-hate relationship with what I do."

Student Kate Jensen, 17, is more interested in film.

"I like pausing a moment in time and looking at it," Jensen said.

She submitted a striking silk inspired by one of Schoenleber's assignments.

"We had one assignment to reproduce something from our childhood. I had this poster in my room for a French film with eight women," she said. "It was kind of a morbid film, but I had a lot of fun trying to make these hard lines like a silk should have."

"I read once that passion is love and anger combined," said Schoenleber.

The Ashland School District will be displaying artwork Jan. 4-17 in the lower level of the Rogue Valley Mall in Medford.

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