For a young artist, the first steps in portraiture are memorable lessons. Asking someone to sit for you is a momentous occasion, and the bond between artist and model during those initial sessions goes a long way toward consolidating one’s identity and self-confidence. With the Grandparent Portrait Show, the Student Art Fund Committee of the Santa Barbara Art Association has taken this great learning opportunity and focused it on grandparents and other significant elders such as godparents in a funded program and contest throughout the Santa Barbara public high schools and junior highs.
The Grandparent Portrait project begins with hundreds of students choosing their media, their mentors, and their subjects, and, through a selection by the committee and a decision by Rita Ferri, 200 of the works will be shown in the Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery through March 24. The program, which is scheduled to take place every other year, exists thanks to the efforts of two former public school art teachers, Audie Love and Sally Hamilton, and in its scope, subject, and objectives, it reflects the intelligence and passion of career educators—people who know what works and what matters when it comes to teaching art.
Hundreds of students and their families will gather for the opening tonight, giving everyone a chance not only to see the work, but in many cases to see the models as well. Izzy Savage, a senior at Dos Pueblos, had two pieces accepted this year, one a group portrait of her father’s family that she created in Photoshop for Claire d’Anthe’s digital photography class, and the other a sculpture that she made of her godmother’s face using alginate, a substance dentists use to make molds. Savage illustrates one of the most important components of the project when she expresses gratitude toward one of the members of the committee, saying, “When I was a sophomore, artist Ron Robertson was my mentor … He taught me all kinds of tricks for working with sculpture and assemblage.”
Ultimately, the heart of the Grandparents Portrait project comes from its brilliant original concept, which was to bring together the experience of making a portrait with the special relationship that students share with their most cherished relatives. Audie Love describes this mission as “getting students to focus on the faces of their grandparents,” and sees it as “a way of strengthening connections with their family roots and pride.” He also hopes that, through this privileged experience of interaction, students will take away something more.
“It’s a way of inspiring students with the hopes and aspirations that their grandparents and grandparent figures have for them.” To share in this carefully crafted and beautifully realized community project, all you have to do is get to the Faulkner Gallery, either tonight, while the artists and their families are there, or anytime this month.
The Grandparent Portrait Show will be at the downtown library’s Faulkner Gallery through March 24. The opening is tonight, Thursday, March 3, 5-7 p.m., with the Awards of Excellence announced at 6 p.m. For more information, visit sbartassoc.org.