Breaking into the art world is no easy task. It takes skills, talent, fortitude, and persistence to name just a few characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. The world of art is one of the tougher fields in which to make money, as it isn’t always taken seriously or considered an essential in everyday living. It would be far easier to get a job bagging groceries, as food is vital and grocery stores can be found on every corner.

Many artists even have been bargained with to lower their prices as if haggling with a flea market vender where such behavior is considered part of the norm. Think about it, though.

Have you ever asked a heart surgeon to lower prices, or haggled with a dentist on the cost of a crown?

Art is valuable to the individual creator and to the masses. A local arts council recently initiated a seminar for high school art students to help them highlight their art for personal success and, as artists have been doing since time immemorial, enhance society as a result.

History proves that once art goes into decline so does the surrounding society. Art informs us about what’s going on in society. It records moments, seasons, and eras. It’s been proven to be a great teaching tool, leveling the playing field socioeconomically. It even aids in math perception.

Ask any true artist, and they quickly will tell you that creating is who they are, and to not create makes them feel unwell. Clearly, art is not just about painting pretty pictures to hang over a sofa.

If you have ever created, you know that art teaches problem solving. It’s like a big 2- or 3-D puzzle where myriad components come together to form an end statement. Not just a visual statement, but an emotional or perhaps historic one, as well. Consider the 1580s watercolors of John White. Because of those paintings, we see what the Algonkian-speaking Indians looked like and how they lived on the Outer Banks centuries ago. They are invaluable.

It’s important to note that creativity, which true artists hold in spades, is inherent in all human beings. It’s the true self speaking through the work of the individual. To honor creativity, where artists often lead the way in brilliant form, space, vision, and color, is to honor the true self in all people, in all life. With all this soapbox shouting about art aside, it is exciting to present the local effort that was designed to help emerging artists get a leg up in the difficult business world of art.

Manteo and First Flight High schools art students were invited to immerse themselves in the business of art in May and June through a partnership with the Dare County Arts Council. A select group of students participated in a seminar, “The Business Side of Art.” There were multiple focuses in the seminar such as how to promote one’s art by communicating effectively with gallery owners, pricing one’s work, the art of framing, the elements that go into jurying and judging, and the organization and publicizing of an art exhibit.

The seminar that the students participated in in May culminated in an exhibit that’s currently on display at the Dare County Arts Council through June 27.

Holly Humphlett, Manteo High School art and photography teacher was at the reception. “It was beneficial having their work in a gallery setting,” Humphlett says of the students. “I enjoyed watching the students interact with the viewers.”

Humphlett explains that the students showcasing work were seniors in mostly AP art, the highest level of art classes they teach. AP stands for college level work load. The students selected the work that represented their style and interest. Having created a portfolio of AP work, Humphlett says, they can send it on to the company College Board to get college credit.

The exhibit features a mix of styles and subjects using a variety of mediums including painting, photography, drawing, and mixed-media. From realistic photographs of mustangs, a butterfly and heron to impressionistic shell paintings and more realistic portraiture, the grouping is dynamic, skillful, and illustrates a passion for color, form, and vision.

To view exceptional use of spot color, neutrals, and texture as well as composition and interesting subject matter, check out the photograph of Brooke Peterson of Manteo High School. She photographed a student in a lab setting that’s arresting. It’s a good example of how contrasts — soft focus and sharp focus, use of color and use of the grayscale, and texture — the wrinkled lab gloves and the smooth shirt of the student, make an everyday moment extraordinary.

There are some mad painting skills shown off in the exhibit including the shell painting of Brigid O’Neil and a shell landscape by Madison Ball.

Fine drawing skill is showcased in Brianna Acuna’s mixed-media work “Moving with the Motions.” She combines collage, paint and charcoal to highlight a nicely rendered black and white hand amid a painterly and colorful abstract setting.

It’s almost unfair to pull out work and highlight it as all efforts in this exhibit have value and show a level of excellence and the personality of the artist. It’s a must-see exhibit if you want to view not only what students have been producing but what teachers are drawing out of them! Bottom line: Support the arts and you pay homage to creativity, that inherent part of humanity where the true self speaks.

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