Every year, OASIS Fine Art and Craft dedicates its upper level gallery space to showcase the work of local art students for one month. But one week before news of the pandemic shut Virginia’s schools down, Broadway High School’s was the last student show to open at OASIS, where the curated collection sat for months as the world tried to find its bearings.
Eleven months later, students are finding their way back in schools, and their creativity well has not run dry. OASIS is kicking off First Friday tonight by welcoming the work of Eastern Mennonite High School students for all of February.
Approximately 35 pieces of various disciplines and mediums are on display in the gallery. EMHS art teacher Malea Gascho said three-quarters of the work was created during classes, but her call for submissions invited all students, regardless of whether they’d taken an art class with the school because avenues of sharing artwork have reduced during the pandemic.
Gascho said several of the pieces cover dark topics and were inspired in autumn, but there is a lot of variety. Her favorite aspect of partnering with OASIS is offering students the chance to view their artwork through the eyes of an audience as part of a larger show.
“You don’t see how great your art is until it’s highlighted up on a wall,” Gascho said.
Anna Stempel is the show’s featured senior spotlight. Stempel said she was always surrounded by art growing up but did not invest in her own creations until high school. Next year, she will begin attending Messiah University in Pennsylvania for graphic design.
“It’s really, really cool to have a whole section of a bunch of different pieces I’m proud of making,” she said. “I hope it has an impact on other people visually because we can be so visually captivated by things, so I hope my art can inspire, influence or impact other people.”
Emotional watercolor portraits and a stained-glass nativity scene are a fragment of her portfolio, but she has a sample of her work displayed on a table at the front of the mezzanine. She said several pieces were inspired by current world affairs, but two in particular capture the duality of happiness and suffering. To create the multimedium works, Stempel interviewed several of her classmates to find the commonalities between people and depicted a few portraits of the students.
“It’s about our inner thoughts and fear, and we don’t often talk about that with each other, but we’re all on some level experiencing fear or being afraid,” Stempel said of “Common Fear.” “A few of the pieces I made for a concentrated, like, a broad question of how can we break down barriers.”
OASIS member Sarah Lock helped hang the artwork and served as the liaison between the school and gallery. She said the collection of work showcases a distinct creative liberty allowed for the students.
“It seems like with her classes she gives an idea or gives certain materials and what the students came up with doesn’t seem to be the same cookie-cutter thing,” she said. “It’s nice on a creative side to see the variety of imagination that she has with her students.”
Because EMHS is completely in person, most students are confined by strict pandemic protocols and will not attend First Friday. People interested in seeing the show can schedule viewings by appointment to minimize the dangers of crowding on the narrow mezzanine by contacting OASIS.
The student show will be up until Feb. 28 and people are welcome to browse the collection any day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.