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Youthful expressions of hope displayed in art show

Emily Dickinson called it “the thing with feathers.” Shakespeare said it was the only medicine for the miserable. It came to symbolize President Obama’s 2008 campaign. And now hope figures prominently in works created by Columbia River High School advanced art students on display at the North Bank Artists Gallery.

Titled “Youth Have No Hope,” the show is the product of the seniors and juniors’ volunteer experiences in the community. Themes ranged from bullying and identity to hunger, homelessness and environmental issues.

“The result of the project is threefold,” said teacher Jason Phelps. “The young artists will bring awareness to areas of concern in our community; instill hope in the community that we can work together to find solutions; and, finally, instill a sense of empowerment within themselves.”

Senior Lili Delgadillo volunteered in the Jump Start program, a district-wide program for incoming kindergarteners, and left the experience with a respect for the children’s tolerance. “Even though they came from different backgrounds—most of them didn’t even know each other before they came into the classroom—they were all still really accepting,” she said.

The resulting graphite portraits of her three younger siblings contain a message of encouragement. “If we all had that kind of confidence in ourselves, we would be able to make a lot more connections with people,” said Delgadillo.

Briana Mason’s project, a revolving multimedia piece that incorporated box imagery and pieces of mirrors, was inspired by a stint as a peer mentor at a hotline. Each conversation, according to the senior, would gradually reveal more about the caller. “Most people feel like they’re put into a box that they can’t really get out of. I wanted to show how there’s that side, but there’s also the side of everybody that’s a star and unique,” said Mason.

“I want people to learn to blossom and understand that there’s a lot more to themselves than just what people tell them they should be,” she added.

Volunteering for a shift at the winter hospitality overflow shelter at his church last November led to a firsthand look at homelessness for senior Andrew Nevitt, whose lighthouse painting titled “Safe Harbor” symbolizes that “no matter who you are, you can find that safe place,” he said.

Seniors Margo Smolyanska and Madisen Hilligoss pursued environmentally focused volunteer opportunities—Smolyanska planting trees with Friends of Trees and Hilligoss performing habitat restoration at the Salmon Creek watershed with the Clark Public Utilities StreamTeam. Both motivated the students to call attention to environmental issues.

Hilligoss’ study of coho salmon—rendered in aluminum, embossed to create scale and gill texture, then painted with acrylics—depicts the fish’s lifecycle. “I find so much beauty in thinking of a fish that goes out to the ocean and returns to the stream that it was born in… I think the whole lifecycle gives people hope about future salmon runs,” she said.

Smolyanska’s pastoral painting challenged her skills with watercolor, which she then felt lagged behind her other artistic talents. “At some point I made a stubborn decision that I needed to keep doing it until I was good at watercolor painting. That took a lot of time and made this process go longer, but I definitely think I improved my skills. Now I use watercolor more liberally,” she added.

In addition to hope, the artists also expressed a wish that others might find similar benefits to artistic creation.

Said Nevitt, “Everyone should make art.”

“Youth Have No Hope” is on display at the North Bank Artist Gallery, 1005 Main St., until Jan. 31, 2015.