Albany High School Advanced Art Students kick off the 4th Annual Showcase at the Abrams Claghorn Gallery

A special Q & A with Albany High School Instructor Aliza Cohen by gallery associate Megan Weirich.

“May” by Kyla Dullum is an Acrylic on Canvas Painting.

What do you love most about teaching art at Albany High School?

I love learning about my students and their wide variety of experiences and backgrounds.  I love teaching new skills and watching my students come up with ideas that I’ve never thought of!

What type of art do you find your students most interested in?

My students love to tell their own stories through their art.  They also love anything where they can learn a new skill and make something useful or beautiful.  At AHS our program spans the traditional (painting, drawing, sculpture) to the more contemporary (installation, new materials).  Recently I had a student do a mural of a giant squid using only artist tape!

A mixed media artwork made with birthday candle wax by Emanuel Amore.

Why do you think this is interesting to them?

I believe making things with your hands gives all people a sense of accomplishment and pride, it is the same with my art students.  They love to take on a challenge and learn a new way to make something, even if there are tons of failures throughout the learning process.

How did the Advanced Class begin? How does it differ from a typical Art Class?

At AHS we offer several different types of art classes, from Foundation Art to Advanced, to Honors and Advanced Placement Art.  The advanced art classes are offered to students who have spent time learning the basics in Foundations. In the advanced classes students can hone their skills, take on more complex projects and work with more independence on their own ideas.

Is there a demand for Art Programs in the current education system? How does a program like yours survive with the budget cuts?

“Aloha” a photograph by Bruce McHugh.

I believe there is a demand for art programs.  Art programs have so much undeniable value! Making art is inherently a problem-solving and inquiry based endeavor.  Students learn to think for themselves in creative ways and find their voice through self-expression. Our art program survives because of the generosity of the Albany community, though we would love more community involvement in support of our high school artists.

Art is a means of individual expression. How do you think the youth of this community can be heard more? Do you believe that art can facilitate this?

What a great question.  The youth of our community definitely need more venues and opportunities to showcase their creativity.  I have been in contact with the Solano Ave Association looking for opportunities for my students to show their work in the community.  If you know of any opportunities or community projects that could involve our artists, please pass them my way! Art is a positive and empowering way for our young people to get involved and make their mark within the community that they know very well.

“Illustrative Particles”, a digital photo by Justine Roi Soverano.

How do you find that the current times influence your students creative process? Are there special tools that maybe we (older folks) didn’t have and/or inspirations that have become fundamental?

Students are heavily influenced by online culture.  They are inundated with imagery, constantly. This can be a wonderful resource, but also creates difficult issues for artists both in terms of appropriation and ability to work slowly.  At the same time, tangible handmade things (ceramics, painting) seem to be having a resurgence in response to the pervasiveness of online culture.

What traditions of art education have you kept alive in the classroom?

We draw all the time.  I believe in drawing as a language and form of communication that can be learned by anyone!  If you can draw your idea, you can communicate with anyone from anywhere.

What does it mean to you and your students, that you have the opportunity to show with the Abrams Claghorn Gallery?

Part of teaching art is teaching how an artist fits into the world around them, and showing your work to the public is a huge part of being an artist.  We are so appreciative to Abrams Claghorn for giving our young artists this unique opportunity to share their work with their community!