McKenna Barker poses with her acrylic paintings at the GoggleWorks
Kai Taylor poses with her clay art sculpture at the GoggleWorks
While most of their friends were spending their summers dipping their feet in the ocean, McKenna Barker and Kai Taylor were dipping brushes into paint and hands into clay as part of the Student Ambassador Fellowship Program at the GoggleWorks. The fellowship is an intensive and highly-competitive program that selects up to 16 students from area schools and pairs them with a mentoring professional artist for eight weeks over the summer, culminating with an exhibition of their work at the end of the fellowship.
McKenna, a senior, was mentored by GoggleWorks artist Zoungy Kligge, who helped guide her through the creation of two “dreamy-aesthetic” open-acrylic pieces that represented retaining childhood memories. After McKenna presented her ideas to Mr. Kligge, he guided her through the process to help bring her ideas to life by first creating thumbnail sketches, followed by clay mock-ups, and then lighting her clay sculpture to help her visualize her work before she began to paint. “I had never painted something fictional before–I have always had a reference picture or something I am looking at that I can paint off of. But for my ideas, they were out of my head and I didn’t have anything to look at. So he helped me construct the idea of what I wanted to do and what I wanted it to be and what I wanted it to look like.”
Kai, also a senior, was mentored by GoggleWorks artist Kristen Egan, who helped her conceptualize and create an air-dried clay sculpture of Icarus falling through the air with his wings falling apart. Kai said that besides her studio time with Ms. Egan, the process of exhibiting her work proved to be just as much of a learning experience. “I had a second piece that I wanted to display for the exhibit, but a day before the show, it just crumbled and fell apart and I had to restart a new project, and get it done in a night and put it on for the show, so it was definitely stressful.” Kai, who intends to go to college for museum studies, also said that she appreciated being able to see what went into creating an exhibit. “It was really beneficial for me to see how we had to set up for the show, such as filling out insurance and setting prices for our work. Plus, (Ms. Egan) has pieces that are shipping worldwide to other shows, so to have her perspective on that and to see her making a career as an artist was so helpful.”
Ms. Christina Pinkerton, an art teacher at the Senior High, recommended that McKenna and Kai apply for the fellowship because of these very real-world experiences that it gives students–including observing first-hand how people make a living being a professional artist. Mentioning how lucky Exeter students are to have access to such an experience locally to supplement their in-classroom experiences, she praised the GoggleWorks for their commitment to arts education and providing these opportunities to students. “All artists and teachers have various amounts of content knowledge that comes from a wide range of backgrounds,” she said, adding, “It’s so beneficial as an artist to experience different viewpoints so you can expand your skill set.”
McKenna, who is considering a career in product design, agreed on the real-world benefits of the fellowship: “The only experience I’ve had was doing art here with a teacher, which has been great, but it’s always been assignments. This was the first time that I really got a chance to do something that I wanted to do and have it be an actual big piece of work. It was a really great experience and I feel very lucky I got to do it.”