Creating art might seem like a solitary experience, but at Father Gabriel Richard High School, it can also mean the sharing of ideas, suggestions and constructive criticism.
The FGR Art Club meets every Monday at lunch hour and is chock full of 15-20 young artists – like-minded sorts who aren’t afraid to gently critique each others’ work all for a common goal.
“It’s all about making better art,” said Sarah Remillard, an 18-year-old senior and co-president of the Art Club. “You don’t mind asking for suggestions or ideas from other members of the club, because they’re artists, too.”
“No one is there to criticize, and you’re not getting graded. We’re having fun.”
Remillard and co-president Miriam Wong, another 18-year-old senior, are the main forces behind the Art Club – along with sponsor and FGR art teacher Rebecca Hawkins. Father Gabriel Richard had been without an Art Club for a few years before Remillard and Wong approached Hawkins in their junior year about sponsoring and restarting the club.
Hawkins was happy to oblige, and loves sponsoring the club. But she takes a back seat when making the decisions.
“I let the kids run it as much as possible so it can be exactly the kind of club they want it to be,” Hawkins said. “Instead of micromanaging what we’re going to work on, when we’re going to do it, you have to trust your kids and not worry about those kinds of things.
“It’s all about having kids you can trust, and making it fun for them.”
There seems to be plenty of fun to go around for Art Club members. There is a theme each month, and members spend that entire month working on a single project pertaining to that theme. At the end of the month, their works are displayed in FGR hallways for students and staff to view. Staff members have even judged some of the artwork in past months.
In September, students picked a medium they felt strongest about and worked on that each Monday. Then, it was “Inktober,” when they worked on ink drawings throughout October. Because of the holidays, November and December’s themes were combined to be Movie-Poster Months, and January was dedicated to redoing work the artists had worked on in previous parts of their lives.
The variety keeps members interested, and keeps them coming back.
“I’ve done a 2-D cartoon comic, three or four ink drawings, and a drawing of Korean actor Kim Taehyung,” said Wong. “I love hanging my art in the hallways, not only because you hear people tell you, ‘Good job,’ which is nice, but because it lets people know about the Art Club.”
The themed art is removed from the hallways each month and replaced with the new theme, but the Art Club has been given a project that is far more lasting. The members have been asked to create Icons, or paintings of Saints, for permanent display in the school chapel. Hawkins, Remillard, Wong and the rest of the members have just begun working on the Icons, and all are excited about the project.
“We have a list of 10, maybe 12, and they will be painted on a wooden board,” said Remillard. “The idea that our art will be hanging in the chapel long after we leave is very exciting. We never imagined the Art Club would be given this kind of opportunity.”
Speaking of opportunity, Wong will have a chance to further her artistic outlets after she graduates from Father Gabriel Richard. She has been accepted to both the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. She is a serious artist who noticed early in life that art was “her thing.”
“I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t drawing or coloring, and people were telling me how good it was,” Wong said.
A few months back, Miriam Wong (left photo), along with her sister and fellow Art Club member Ana Wong, 15, shared their artistic abilities with some underprivileged pregnant women in Detroit as part of their work with the charity, Guadalupe Workers.
“We gave them a painting-therapy lesson, teaching them that art can help them relax,” Miriam said. “It was October, so we painted pumpkins. I taught them how to blend colors. It really was a lot of fun. Not only for them, but for us also.”
Miriam Wong says she felt fortunate to be able to do the charity work, and feels even more fortunate that art – including the Father Gabriel Richard Art Club – is such a big part of her life.
“I come from a family of engineers and scientists, so I’m not sure where my art abilities come from, but I feel very lucky to have them,” she said. “My life would be so much different if I didn’t have art.”