High school artists learn new skills at Hastings College program

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Some of the best young artists in the state are in a prestigious program at Hastings College this week where they're learning art forms they may not usually have access to.

Students work on wood sculptures Wednesday at Hastings College's Open Space Visual Art Program. (Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

Faculty at Hastings College hand selected 35 high school juniors from around Nebraska for their Open Space Visual Arts Program.

Students are on their third day of the program. They rotate through five mediums, which include glass blowing, sculpture, painting, digital art and ceramics.

"I'm more of a painter, but it's exciting to get out of my comfort zone and try new things like this," said Mary Said, an art student from Marian.

Said applied for the program on a whim. She said she was excited for it, but didn't know what to expect. She was pleasantly surprised at the immersive experience.

Said decided she wants to take the pre-med track in college. But this program has shown her how she can incorporate art into her plans.

"I was talking to some of the people that work here, and there is a pre-med program here, but I could also minor in studio art, and that's something I'd so love to do," Said said.

There's about seven kids in each class. One of them took advantage of the beautiful day, and painted outside. They used nature as their muse.

"We're doing plain air painting, so taking all of our oil paints outside and working from life and direct observation," said Sarah Swist, an assistant professor of painting at Hastings College. "It's kind of an exciting time to work outside, and get out of the studio and do something a little bit different."

Others took the outdoors and put it on their screens for the digital art portion.

Students created animations using Photoshop to get them accustomed to the computer program.

Keegan Towey is an art student from Gretna. He was in the digital art class on Wednesday. Towey said he's more of a painter and drawer, but enjoys learning new skills like this.

"It's been so fun, so I'll always take the memories. Everything I've learned I'll always remember. I can practice new skills that I've taken from here and expand on them," Towey said.

This is the second year the college has hosted the Open Arts Visual Program.

They received about 70 applications this year, and accepted half into the program around January. Students have to submit extensive portfolios and letters of recommendation.

"We actually believe that creativity is the heart of what makes us human," said Chris Hochstetler, dean of innovation and creativity at Hastings College. "This program more so than any other really typifies that. You can see that exploration of humanity in these young artists, and it's just extraordinary."

Students will be at the college for the program through the rest of this week.

There'll be a free exhibition of all the student's work from 10 a.m. till noon this Saturday at the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center. It's open to the public.