Exhibit brings youth and joy to Drake Gallery

Exhibit brings youth and joy to Drake Gallery

Sophomore Samantha Linn examines work from Sarah Ward’s collection. “It was colorful and vibrant and full of imagination,” Linn said.

These days, walking into the Harry M. Drake Gallery is like walking into Willy Wonka’s candy factory. The walls are decorated with bright, multicolored pieces of art. The exuberant and youthful energy in the gallery makes it hard to focus on only one piece of work. It becomes immediately apparent that these artists are much different than past artists showing in the Drake gallery. “It was colorful, and vibrant and full of imagination,” sophomore Samantha Linn said after walking through the exhibit.

The exhibit, featuring artwork from students at the South Chicago Art center, was started by St. Paul Academy and Summit School alum Sarah Ward.Ward, (class of ‘87),  founded the South Chicago Art Center in 2001. The center is located in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in the south side of Chicago. Ward noted that with multiple gangs on the streets, some students are at risk when walking to the center.

“It’s an after-school program in a neighborhood where there are no cultural programs in general and no after-school programs. We provide a free space for kids six and up to do visual arts,” Ward said. The center also works in schools, relating art to various subjects. Around 3000 kids ages six and up come to the program to work on visual arts including sculpting, painting and digital photography. Ward added that the center also provides outreach programs to other nearby neighborhoods.

Ward said that her time at SPA led her to start the South Chicago Art Center. The art department was special for her. She “wanted to create that same environment for kids, and I would want to create that any where I would go,” Ward said. The artwork in the Drake Gallery exhibit includes artwork from students ages five to 18. An array of art fills the gallery, in mediums such as painting, drawing and collage. Visitors’ eyes dart from one creation to the next. “It’s good to see they are doing something they are passionate about,” junior Eddy Sharifkhani said. “I don’t think I could do anything like that.”

Ward, who is the younger sister of Upper School History teacher Mollie Ward, was the keynote speaker for last year’s Speaker Day. She spoke to the Upper School about her work with the Chicago Art Center.  Ward hopes that students who heard her speech last year learned that “it’s really important to give back in any way you can. Every kid needs attention. I love to give back and I think that’s what’s most important in my life,” she said.

The speech received great feedback and students found it pleasantly surprising to see her student’s work in the gallery. “Her speech was incredible and being able to look at her student’s creations made her story that much more meaningful to me,” Linn said.

Just as making the artwork brought joy to the children, the bright and cheerful gallery brings happiness to the SPA community. Ward wishes that the SPA community will be able to see what impact the center has on its students. “I hope that [SPA students] can just sit back and see that ‘wow, this is such great opportunity’ because they are obviously really good at it and enjoy being [at the art center],” Ward said.

Both Sharifkhani and Linn enjoyed the gallery and encourage their friends to visit it as well. “I would totally recommend it to my friends,” Sharifkhani said.

“Most definitely. It’s unlike other galleries that have been at SPA before,” Linn said. It’s a perfect way to brighten up any day.