Visions ’21: An Exhibition of Pandemic Paintings and Quarantine Collectibles
What are the healing properties of art? It may not be a miracle medical solution, such as a vaccine, however art does have the innate ability to mend the soul and provide comfort and safety. For 22 years, Visions—a visual art program for teens—has done just that.
During a typical school year, Visions invites six Valley high schools to bring 42 of their best art students monthly to Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) to learn about contemporary art, collaborate with students from other schools, and practice their art-making skills alongside professional artists. Students also get the opportunity to visit universities and artist studios, which help them explore unconventional career opportunities. If you were to ask any Visions graduate, they would probably say their most memorable experience in the program is the weekend-long retreat at Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott, where campfire games, outdoor art-making, and longtime friendships are established.
One of the key initiatives of Visions is to further develop teen resiliency through the practice of and discussion around art. Suddenly, 2020 became the utmost litmus test of Visions’ ability to “practice what it preaches” and quickly respond to difficult change. With the closing of schools and banning of gatherings, many of the program offerings were no longer an option. Visions had to flip on a dime . . . and fast.
The solution: workshops transitioned to virtual gatherings, where art supplies were sent to the students’ homes and the artists taught from the confines of their studios via Zoom. We became all too familiar with the mute button and did our best to control our cats from waltzing across the screen throughout the day. It was especially difficult to teach darkroom photography techniques in a remote setting and to manage the delivery back and forth of clayware that needed to be fired by the already-busy teachers. Nevertheless, we persevered.
The beautiful thing about Visions this year was the discovery of new coping mechanisms for teens. Each month, students knew they would have a safe space and a creative outlet to verbally or visually communicate any worries about or frustrations with the pandemic. Something about participating in the workshops from the comfort of their own homes allowed them to open up and broaden their conceptual thinking about art. Thus, the healing began.
One Shadow Mountain High School student said, “I hadn’t viewed art I made (both visual art and in other practices) as an outlet for self-expression, and Visions introduced me to the ways in which I can make meaningful, intentional, and personal art.”
This conceptual growth is evident in the Visions ‘21 exhibition, a showcase of artworks created by this year’s participants, on view at the Center Space gallery in Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts until September 13, 2021, and indefinitely online. One piece, in particular, addresses how Shadow Mountain student Sofia Lacosta used art to come to terms with her identity and sense of self during quarantine. Listen to Sofia’s words by pushing play on the video below:
Gabi Calabretti, a senior at New School for the Arts & Academics, used her newfound skills in cyanotype printing—learned from a workshop with local artist Rebecca Ross—to reflect on her time of isolation. Listen to Gabi’s words in the video below:
Whether Visions provided an escape from the woes of the world or offered a means of communicating feelings they wished they could scream through their face masks, art is one medicinal option that can begin to cure loneliness for young adults during a time they need it most.
“As someone who has trouble being social, being able to reflect back on [my first Visions] class and seeing my confidence now, I truly feel grateful for having this opportunity. My passion for the arts has grown much more than expected. Part of that, I think, came from seeing and working alongside others who share that same passion.”—Saguaro High School student
The Visions ‘21 exhibition is on view in the Center Space gallery, located inside Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second Street, Scottsdale, AZ, from Tuesday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Sundays noon – 5:00 p.m.; and evenings during performances. Admission is free. Artworks and artist statements can be viewed virtually at the Visions ’21 online exhibition.