The first of four shows by Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Visual Arts seniors — all of them free and open to the public — begins Friday, Feb. 15, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Parks Exhibition Center on the Idyllwild Arts campus.  

That first show, called “Epoch,” like the shows whose openings follow on March 1, March 15 and April 12, will run for nine days to allow plenty of public viewing time. Viewing time is well-deserved by young people whose seriousness about their art has already earned for some of them admission into world-renowned college visual arts programs that include the Rhode Island School of Design, School of Visual Arts, Otis College of Art and Design, California Institute of the Arts, Parsons School of Design, Maryland Institute College of Art and University of the Arts London-Central Saint Martins. 

Academy VA Chair David Reid-Marr calls the Senior Show “a way for graduating seniors to demonstrate that they have reached a level of maturity both formally and conceptually.”  

The students taught by Reid-Marr and his VA colleagues do much more than simply draw, paint or sculpt their creations. The months-long preparation for the Senior Show includes composing “an artist statement which explicates the work,” he said.  

Preparation for the Senior Show also includes other behind-the-scenes tasks that, Reid-Marr said, give his students “resilience and integrity, and prepare them for college.” 

For example, each VA senior’s work is subjected to an evening of critique by fellow VA seniors and the VA faculty.  

“This is a final exam for everyone,” a member of the VA faculty is likely to remind all of the students. “So make sure you participate.”

Appropriately for a final exam, many questions will be challenging.

A couple of years ago, a Hopi student’s work included representation of the Pueblo Revolt against Spanish colonization in 1680. The large work was laid out on the floor, so the student walked its perimeter as he spoke. He took care with his explanation not only for the observing students and teachers, none of whom was Hopi — “some people who don’t understand our ways might not respect them” — but for the Hopis who were not present.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to my people for correct representation,” the young man said.

“I understand that,” another VA senior said. “But if this work represents your culture; where are you in it?”

“I didn’t even want to put my name on this work,” the Hopi boy said, smiling, “because it should be about the gathering of all Hopi people.”

Relationships between individuals and their communities, relationships between all human beings and the planet that sustains us … these and other equally important topics will be addressed by the four remarkable shows forthcoming from Idyllwild Arts Academy’s VA seniors.

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