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March 9, 2012 > State of the Arts

State of the Arts

By Margaret Talt, Fremont Cultural Arts Council

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Pablo Picasso

Treasured talents. Some people have them, some do not. There are many talented, artistic students going through the Fremont Unified School District, students with talents to treasure. Two previous articles have discussed what volunteer residents do to give school children cultural arts experiences they might not otherwise have, from drawing to music or dance, as well as what the city offers in the way of cultural arts courses. What about some of the students who have graduated from or are currently attending classes in Fremont schools? What are their perspectives on the cultural arts offerings they experienced?

Niko Arredondo: Niko, a sophomore at Washington High School, explores many ways to express his artistic leanings, but likes pen and ink best, sometimes incorporating marker pens. By exploring different methods to create, Niko feels that he stretches his range of art skills, and said, "With the thought that as an artist your mind wonders, why can't your work wonder itself?"

Art classes provided at Washington High are fine with him. Niko feels he has a great teacher in Todd Elkin, who urges students to a stage where they can't resist picking up a brush or pen and creating what's on their minds.

Realizing that he prefers to draw and is easily distracted from other studies, Niko is beginning to understand that those other courses may have roles to play in his future too. He plans to obtain an art degree, then hopes to move into a field where art plays a role, such as advertising and magazines.

Ruth Lee and Michelle Lee are winners of Olive Hyde Art Guild scholarships. (Although Ruth and Michelle share the same last name, they are not sisters.) These scholarships are not won easily. Applicants are required to provide a portfolio of artwork, have a minimum GPA of 2.50, provide letters of recommendation from a Fremont High School art instructor and a school counselor, and have written permission from a parent or guardian. Annually, OHAG awards the first place winner $2,000 and two honorable mention winners each receive $1,000. Financial need is not involved as awards are based on artistic merit only. Funding for the scholarships comes through membership dues and a gala event held each December when artists are invited to display and sell their work.

Michelle Lee: Starting at Hopkins Junior High and continuing at Mission San Jose High School, Michelle took her first art courses, which did much to encourage her to draw. She also enrolled in private art classes as well. At college she has found art courses more demanding, instilling self-discipline to meet deadlines. Although Michelle uses graphite, charcoal, watercolor, pastel, digital and occasionally colored pencil to express art, her medium of choice is oil.
Michelle dreams of becoming an animator and perhaps later on a teacher. She says, "The best thing about animation is the fact that animators can make their imagination into reality."

Ruth Lee: Ruth became involved in woodworking and drafting programs in the eighth grade and continued in high school, designing her own projects. She felt the loss when woodwork courses were eliminated. While Ruth did not take an art class until the twelfth grade, she said, "...I took an Art 1 class and was blown away at the idea of simply drawing things for fun." Playing the piano since the age of four, Ruth also learned to play guitar, and became interested in the culinary arts when volunteering at the Fremont Senior Center.

Generally Ruth uses a pencil for drawing, although anything that comes to hand gets used. She wrote, "I have always used art for a specific reason." Although she uses her artistic ability for gifts, Ruth prefers to see art used for beneficial purposes. With that in mind, her goal is to become a plastic surgeon and use her artistic talent to repair the faces of injury victims or people with facial birth defects.

Laura Ramie: Laura took art classes all four years at Washington High School. Laura wrote, "These classes had a great effect on me." She found that the Art Club was of great value with its collaborative projects and critiques. Art teacher Todd Elkin encouraged Laura to enroll in the California College of the Arts pre-college program and CCA is now her Alma Mater.

Interaction with the theater department, Fremont's teen newsletter, "Youth Today," WHS's newspaper, "The Hatchet," as well as using her artistic ability in a variety of classes sharpened Laura's artistic talent even more. Last year she completed a 40-foot mural on a concrete wall in a private garden in Niles that depicted Niles history. Laura intends to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator as well as continuing to paint murals, sell her artwork, and teach art classes through the City of Fremont.

Brian and Emily Chen: Just beginning their way through Fremont schools and the world of cultural arts are brother and sister, Brian and Emily Chen. Brian, in seventh grade at Hopkins Junior High, plays trumpet in the school's concert band and takes private lessons from Christopher Wilhite. Emily, in Chadbourne Elementary School, enjoys the art time there, plus private instruction with artist Ichen Wu.

Parents Phina and Ted Chen think Emily will be involved in art when grown. Because of his arithmetic skill, they are uncertain what direction Brian may take.

For Niko, Michelle, Ruth, and Laura, their art opportunities in school were encouraging and had great effect. For Brian and Emily, we will have to wait to find out.

Art plays a role in so many things. Any endeavor that rises to a level of excellence pleasing to the senses can become a form of art, be it architecture, landscaping, music, or fashion.

Students like the ones above that are going through the Fremont school system have much talent and potential. We are fortunate they exist, that through their artistic interests the world will be a better place. Talented treasures, indeed!

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