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South Jordan Journal

Bingham High students’ art shines in shows, creativity encouraged in classes

Aug 04, 2022 01:34PM ● By Julie Slama

Fifty years ago, the Utah All-State High School Art Show was created to honor the best high school artists for their talent, originality and enthusiasm.

The exhibit at Springville Museum of Art continues, expanding to digital submission and online jurying to review all 1,063 entries from 108 high schools. 

Junior Hailey Oepping was one of the 335 students who had work exhibited; Oepping used digital media to show the severe impact of global warming.

Bingham High art teacher Phil Jackson said opportunities such as Springville, Jordan School District’s art show and even the school’s art show give students a chance to have their artwork shared.

“These are great opportunities for our students,” he said. “I have a number of students who have artwork they’re putting in. There are some oil paintings, those students have done some incredible work, and our ceramic stuff is pretty amazing this year.”

 Each year, a couple pieces at the school’s art show are purchased to display around the school.

“It's a super cool opportunity if the student’s art is chosen and then displayed it in the library or around the main office,” Jackson said. 

Students also have entered shows on their own or even contests like the Congressional Art Show or PTA Reflections. While some students do it purely for the enjoyment, others seek college credit. Advanced Placement ceramics students created and submitted portfolios this past spring.

In addition to ceramics, Bingham offers commercial art, drawing, calligraphy (which includes bookbinding), painting (watercolor and oil), printmaking, photography, digital photography and more.

“We have a lot of choices for the arts,” he said. “Then there's also the music side of things and a whole bunch of offerings. They even have electronic composition class where you can create music on the computer, and guitar and then there's all the multimedia stuff like video editing and like 3D design. It's an impressive offering for our students.”

Students take advantage of those courses, Jackson said. 

“Every beginning class fills and Drawing II classes almost always fill. Our teachers could teach and fill every one of the because there is the demand for it. Our students like to do art here,” he said. “We want to give our students some different opportunities. I might have a student say, ‘I'm not good at drawing, but I can write you know, so I'll try calligraphy’ and they’ll hear from their classmates it’s fun. We do the traditional dip pens with the ink, so they all think they like Harry Potter and they get excited about that.”

In ceramics, they may make masks, using skills they’ve acquired. In drawing classes, students can practice realistic techniques, create a portrait or try their hand at mandalas.

“I have had students just get up on a desk and pose,” he said. “In calligraphy, we just finished circular writing. We have some creative projects; one of the favorite projects is I’ll bring in records and we'll do paintings and lettering all over the records. It’s really fun.”

Jackson said that some students appreciate the time during the day to be creative.

“We keep the atmosphere a little laid back, you know, turn on music during class when they work and they can talk, so, the environment we kind of create here is welcoming and fun,” he said. “Some students say, ‘I don't want anyone to tell me what to draw,’ which I understand. I respect that. But I don’t want any of them sitting there for a day and a half, trying to figure out what to draw, so I try to give them some broad themes and they’ll come up with awesome things, really creative. They have so much creative energy.”

Jackson believes creativity is important for all people, not just art students.

“I understand when they come to my class, there's a small percentage that are going into art as a career,” he said. “So, what I tell them is if you take anything out of this class, creativity is going to be the one thing that will really serve you throughout your life. Creative people stick around when others get laid off because they can see different ways around problems, they can think of ways to be more efficient, market better, they can think outside the box. People who are creative are going to be a lot more valuable in whatever they choose to do. I tailor my lessons around that and teach them ways to brainstorm for their projects, where they'll come up with more unique ideas rather than just drawing the first thing that comes to their head. We spent a lot of time on developing creativity.”

That principle can be applied to most any career from engineering to accounting.

“Creative thinking can help with problem solving, and thinking of a way to do something better, improve on ideas — it doesn't have to look like creating art. It may look like ‘how do you solve problems that seem hard to solve?’” he said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has seen more people practice creativity.

“We, as teachers, had to adapt everything, go online, and think of new creative ways to reach our students and connect with them. That right there was a huge exercise in creativity,” Jackson said.

Bingham has been known for its art. In Springville’s museum, a section of the high school art show was dedicated to former art students who have gone on to become professionals. 

Bingham alum Greg Newbold, whose student work was exhibited in the show from 1983-85, was one of a handful who were highlighted. As an illustrator, he has worked for high-profile clients, illustrated for children’s books and exhibits his art in galleries in Salt Lake and Tucson, Arizona.

In the exhibit, Newbold shared: “The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more options of expression you will have. As a result, your ability to create exactly what is in your mind will not be limited.”

In addition to alumni, other guest artists have shared with Bingham students their advice, techniques and ideas. 

Before the pandemic, the art department offered an optional art trip to San Francisco to take in art and architecture. 

When students submit their artwork for shows, they draw from their experiences or observations. 

“It’s an opportunity for them to showcase their work; we don’t make it a requirement,” Jackson said. “It’s a chance for them to be recognized for their hard work and to be valued.”