Art Fest finishes on a high note

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Photo courtesy of Alec Ells '22

A collection of the work Alec Ells ’22 sold at the Art-Fest

Julia Kado , Staff Writer

Art Fest is an annual tradition at Grosse Pointe South that not only allows for students to display works that they find pride in, but also for them to gain monetary earnings by selling their own works to attendees of the festival.

“ArtFest is integral to our department, as a means of showcasing student artwork, but the best thing about ArtFest is how much students enjoy it and get excited about it,” art teacher Thomas Szmrecsanyi said. “While it is one of many opportunities to show their work, it is by far the most meaningful experience for South Art students because it is local and provides an opportunity to share and interact with their peers, community members, teachers and families.”

Twenty percent of the money from Art Fest goes to the Robert Rathbun Memorial Fund to “continue finding his endowment to the school and annual scholarship,” Szmrecsanyi said.

“We also receive some donations annually that go toward materials or equipment for students in our classrooms, which is very helpful in maintaining the integrity of our program,” Szmrecsanyi said. “We need funding to maintain the tools and equipment that allow students to do amazing things and produce such a wide variety of outcomes.”

Alec Ells ’22 was one of the top earners, selling over 40 pieces and even having Principal Hamka buy one of his works.

“I enjoyed having my pieces out as an example to people of what can be done with clay and what can be achieved with pottery as a whole,” Ells said. “I hope that Art Fest showed what an amazing program we have at South and how important it is to so many students like myself.”

Ells plans to donate a partial sum of the money his ceramic works earned back to the ceramics program at South, saving the rest. He values his work as a form of expression, saying he doesn’t have a set process for creating.

“One crucial thing I’ve learned from pottery is how to fail; at each step of the way so much can go wrong that you learn to work with it, deal with it and move forward,” Ells said. “So, for each piece or project I start on, I have a final idea in my head that I loosely shoot for, but I let the clay flow and move along.”

Ells has also made progress using a technique called throwing, in which the potter uses the potter’s wheel to make pieces.

“Though I don’t feel attached to every piece I make, each one represents my exploration of new aspects and techniques of pottery, and each form marks steps forward in my own development in the craft,” Ells said. “One example of pieces that are significant to me, however, are the set of eight large vases and large planter, as they mark as a large step in my throwing progression and the fulfillment of a challenge Szmrecsanyi set for me. I wanted to keep these pieces in my family so each household (my brother’s, sister’s, and mine) have two.”

Ells even plans to continue pottery as a form of small business, but would try to ensure that the art form still remains fun for him.

“When I come back to pottery as a form of small business, I will strive to never make my passion work,” Ells said. “I love making projects and forms that don’t fulfill me, and if someone wants to purchase that work that’s great. I plan to not change what I’m doing to fit what’s popular and what is selling if it doesn’t spark interest in myself.”

Ella Adams, another top earner, usually works with glazed stoneware and earned a whopping 500 dollars during Art Fest this year.

“I started creating my style of work sophomore year when Szmrecsanyi showed me these watercolor underglazes he has,” Adams said. “I started to create more flat and canvas-like pieces to paint on, instead of throwing them on the wheel, which was something I struggled with. I tend to sculpt my pieces, then fire them and finish them off with a painting. It takes a little longer to finish since I’m doing an entire art piece on another piece, but the outcome is always worth it.”

Adams, though sometimes insecure during Art Fest, was still happy to see the work of her classmates along with her own.

“Having my pieces displayed was almost magical,” Adams said. “Art fest is an amazing thing for the young artists at South to show off their works and also see what others are creating. I felt insecure at moments when having my work displayed, but that was soon washed away after the first night of Art Fest.”

Adams plans to continue cultivating her skill as a hobby rather than a career.

“I don’t think I would enjoy art as much as I do if I decided to do it for work,” Adams said. “In my mind, art is there for me to de-stress and unwind. If I made it a job, it would do the opposite of what I use it for now. I wouldn’t enjoy the pressure of creating my very best pieces for the public eye and the stress of always having to create.”

Szmrecsanyi said he views any participant in Art Fest as a winner.

“Everyone gets to be an artist during the show, and it takes some guts to let people see where you are with your artwork,” Szmrecsanyi said. “It’s really nice to see the students take the initiative in sharing their work, and sometimes they really put themselves out there with a creative idea or some social commentary.”