Thursday, May 10, 2012

Alternative education students display artwork at teen center


By Dashiell Young-Saver
Students from Century Academy, Conejo Valley High School and the Conejo Valley Unified School District independent study program are displaying their work for friends, family and the public at the second Conejo Valley Alternative Education Art Show at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center.

To kick-start the four-day event, the schools hosted a reception at the center on May 8. The artwork will continue to be displayed until tomorrow.
“I think it is a marvelous goal for students to work towards,” Century Academy art instructor Barbara Shannon said. “It gives them an impetus to give their best efforts in their pieces. Also, (it allows them) to share what they are doing and to share the program with the community at large,”
The majority of the featured artists are students from Century Academy, an independent study high school formed by the district in 2010. By using nontraditional methods and a blend of classroom and online learning, the high school is able to meet the needs of students who, due to busy schedules, health issues or a variety of other reasons, cannot meet the five-day work schedule of a traditional high school or who opt for an alternative delivery of instruction.
About 50 pieces of artwork are by Century students. The remaining displays are from the classes of Lee Svoboda, an independent studies/art teacher at Conejo Valley High School.
The works showcase various media, including ink, watercolor, oil paint, colored pencil, scratch boards and three-dimensional forms.
“It’s their day to shine and shed some light on independent study and that opportunity,” said Century Academy counselor Rachel Guyette. “It’s just so nice for more people to become aware of the option and how wonderful it is.”
Century is the only complete independent study high school in the district. Other CVUSD high schools host independent study program students who work mostly at home using a text-based curriculum.
“Other schools have their own art shows, so it’s nice that Century does that, too,” said 11th-grader Robin Ossentjuk.
One goal of the show is to connect the independent study students to the rest of the district.
“I have friends from other schools attending, so it is definitely a social event.”
Robin transferred from Thousand Oaks High to Century in the second semester of this school year because of medical issues. Art is her favorite subject, and she plans to become a professional artist. This is the first public showing of her artwork.
“It’s publicity, and I’m really excited about it. Sometimes important people decide to attend these, and I think that is really cool,” she said.
Another 11th-grade Century art student, Arielle Komie, agreed.
“(Art) allows me to express my feelings, and I love capturing the beauty of the world. The event allows me to present my art to the world and the community,” Arielle said.
In addition to district funding, Century students received much of their art supplies from the collection of their art teacher, Shannon, a professional artist and author. After earning an art degree from San Jose State University, Shannon began teaching in 1964. She moved to TOHS a year later and started teaching various subjects in independent study when the program began in 1986.
“(Shannon) is great. She is easygoing, a great artist and a great teacher too. Because she has so much experience, she can help us a lot,” Arielle said.
Ten years ago, after seeing teachers without art degrees struggle to put together an art curriculum, Shannon wrote a textbook titled “Exploring Art Media.” The book has sold about 5,000 copies, been adopted by the district, been approved by the state as a supplemental textbook and recently won second place for the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in the textbook category.
According to Shannon, another goal of the independent study art show is to raise awareness for the arts in the community and the district.
“The fact is that the visual arts make people more educated. I know that when I teach (art), it forces the students to become more observant and aware of their environment,” Shannon said.


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