Santa Barbara High’s Visual Arts and Design Academy: A Talented Bunch

A Reflection on Teenage Art in the Middle of a Pandemic

Credit: Courtesy

 Projection art, while not entirely unheard of in this town, is still rare enough that I could not miss out on the opportunity to ditch my screen and make the short trek into the heart of downtown to see the work of students in Santa Barbara High’s Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA) projected on the side of the Lobero Theatre. 

I desperately miss art shows: getting dressed up, watching proud parents taking pictures of their youngsters standing next to their artwork, overhearing the oohs and awws of it all. Most of all I miss perusing galleries by myself on a mellow afternoon and stopping in my tracks at a piece of art and being able to make a personal connection to it. In a small, but intimate gathering last Saturday evening in the parking lot behind the Lobero, watching the lights flicker one image after another, I was able to do exactly that.

 Perhaps because I don’t know many teenagers and it’s been a number of years since I have been one, I found myself utterly blown away by their sheer talent. And not just talent as in technical skill, but the ability to transmit the complexity of their being into something that could evoke feelings of joy, isolation, anxiety, resilience, confusion and good ol’ teenage angst. There were some pieces that captured the underbelly of those most tedious years such as a young girl huddled in despair, crouched in a harsh spotlight, her hand and hair covering her face; and a portrait of one’s face appearing to be torn open with two little eyes engulfed in the darkness (think Geena Davis’ character in Beetlejuice). 


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Pieces like these led to the sobering thought that on top of the highs and lows to be expected, I could just not fathom the additional weight of surviving these teen years in the midst of a pandemic! While many of the works shone a light on the parts of life we keep hidden, there were also many depictions of inner strength and beauty. 

 The highlight of the event for me was not a singular piece of art itself, but rather the moments when the small crowd broke into cheers. I realized that public art, in times like these, can help bring us back to the closeness we crave. I hope that these young creative minds continue to push the boundaries of their self-expression. That they know there is a place for them in the vast art world, and even in the quiet streets of their home. 

All in all, it was very exciting to see the Lobero use their platform to illuminate the abundance of young talent in our own backyard, and I look forward to seeing more collaborative and innovative programming with budding artists in the future. 

 Big hugs and applause to the students of VADA.

To view the students’ artwork, click here.


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