“The students learned all about the ecology of the river, the history of the river, its importance to Kansas City and to the local and national environment,” Finkelston said. “Then they turned all that information into artwork. We went to scrapyards under the bridges and learned about pollution and everything that Missouri River Relief deals with.”
The teachers of the East art department last year were faced with the task of selecting students that they felt would truly appreciate the trip.[media-credit id=186 align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]“The artists were selected based on talent and skill level but also on our ability to trust them. It’s not the kind of field trip that you can have goofballs on so we needed people we could trust to not rock the boat, literally in this case,” Finkelston said. “We knew that if they went off they would come back. We tried to mainly choose juniors so that they would still be around now.”
Because it was a small group, around fifteen students, the students felt extremely privileged to be among the few chosen.
“I was really surprised. I never expected to get selected for this because I am not a big art person,” says now senior Leyann Dahlgren. “I don’t think I am all that good so I was really excited and I think I kinda stepped up to the plate and had to improve a lot to make pieces for this.”
The artists selected covered a wide range of mediums. The works produced varied from photographs, to graphic design to even sculpture-like pieces.[media-credit id=186 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]“I found a headlight in an old scrapyard and I ended up getting it to light up with the help of an auto shop guy and then put a deer in front of it for the deer in headlights look,” said senior Duri Long as she showed off her work at the gallery. “I think its just really cool to see how many different things have come out of the same trip, like what parts of it different people focused on, whether they focused on the nature aspect or the scrapyard, that sort of thing.”
Students approached what they saw on the river from many different viewpoints. While some, like Long, chose to focus on the combining of nature and human interference, others saw the pollution in a more negative light.
“We had to try to raise up money for the river because its just so dirty right now,” said senior Jennifer Huran. “There’s just trash everywhere and there’s no one on the water.”
A semester later, with the help and generosity of Studio B Art Gallery, the students finally put their work on display. As visitors passed through, many were amazed by the quality of work that was produced.
Sam Rider, a senior at East, remarked that he, “didn’t know there were artists my age at East that were this good.”[media-credit id=186 align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]All the profits from sales the night of the gallery showing were split: the artists received half and the rest went to support the Missouri River Relief. The event was a major success, pulling in many visitors from the Kansas City community as well as the artists’ fellow students.
“I’m really, really happy. The kids did an incredible job and there’s a lot of great work and it’s selling pretty well,” Finkelston said during the showing. “I hope the kids had a great experience. I mean its certainly been great for me.”