PALMER — Fifteen Palmer High students in the school’s International Baccalaureate program showed the toils of their artistic and adolescent journeys Friday at the school’s annual IB art show. This show was the culmination of an intensive pre-college course that challenged each student to expand their thinking while honing their craft.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into these,” PHS art instructor Shelli Franckowiak said.

Palmer High is one of two IB schools in the state, along with West Anchorage High School, according to the International Baccalaureate’s official website. Several people from the community ambled around the main lobby of PHS, admiring the student’s works.

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“Palmer’s talent just never runs out,” attendee Helen Wooding said.

Some attendees mark their calendars for this very day, looking forward to find out what the up-and-coming generation has to offer. Local artist Barbara Hunt attended this year’s show like she did the year before.

“I just had to, these are so profound,” Hunt said.

Hunt walked around like a kid in a candy store, marveling at the various works with a big grin on her face, saying, that she is the students’ “biggest fan.”

She meandered around from station to station, talking to the students about their inspirations and creative processes. She was quick to praise each student.

“This is not boring art. This is fantastic art, and it comes from the minds of the future,” Hunt said.

Hunt teaches various mediums of art in Palmer. She’s familiar with Franckowiak’s efforts and sung her praises for fostering creativity and encouraging her kids to challenge themselves.

“They have a fabulous instructor,” Hunt said.

PHS junior Emily Mack stood by her station, talking to attendees about her various works on display. Most of her work had an anime/manga style with plenty of color, shading and typography to share emotional messages of adversity and overcoming all the strife that comes with life. Hunt was taken aback by Mack’s work.

“This is very powerful. People need to see this stuff,” Hunt said.

One of Mack’s pieces depicted a girl covered in cuts and bandages with a series of hurtful words littering the canvas, surrounding the visibly downtrodden girl.

“I like to pour my emotions into each piece,” Mack said.

Mack said that she’s basically been making art since she could pick up a pencil. Like the other IB students at the show, Mack’s station featured a variety of different mediums, from painted canvas to stained glass with a light shining from the back. She said that she’s been working on her pieces all school year.

Mack said that she grew up in the Valley after moving around a lot when she was younger. She said that coming of age has thrown plenty of hardships her way, hardships that she’s learned to overcome with the therapeutic power of art at her side.

“It’s been a difficult journey,” Mack said.

Mack said that she grew up as a naturally shy and self-conscience kid but she’s grown a lot as a person over the years and so has her art. She said that art has helped her express herself and connect to other people, coming out of her shell.

“It’s very therapeutic,” Mack said.

Franckowiak said this show was very validating for the students, affirming their hard work and identities as artists, “and they all are.”

“It’s a huge deal for these kids,” Franckowiak said.

Franckowiak said that art is a tool for communication that allows young people to express big ideas effectively. She said that the IB students have been learning different methods of conveying their ideas.

“I see art as a language, a language that everybody can speak and everybody can understand,” Franckowiak said.

Each student had an art journal at their station. These journals are part of the IB program, prompting the students to chronicle their creative process and experiment with their thoughts and ideas. She said the IB program actually encourages the young artists to take risks and take failures in stride. She said that as the kids think and write more about their artistic journey’s, learning from experienced artists in the community, researching and doing comparative studies they prosper.

“That’s when I see a lot of kids grow,” Franckowiak said.

PHS senior Rheanne Bouchard said that making her art journal was difficult at first, but once she got into the groove of it, she felt like it helped her come up with more ideas and helped her feel more proud of her overarching story. She said that she was glad that she was in the IB program since it’s given her a lot of creative freedom.

“You can explore your ideas more,” Bouchard said.

One of Bouchard’s pieces is an outcry against second hand smoke from cigarettes, particularly speaking out against exposure to children. She said that she wanted to explore the idea of tar since smoky lungs get filled with tar. She said that Franckowiak suggested that she use actual tar and she did just that, using a caulking gun and brushes.

“I’m really proud of this group. I feel honored to be a part of their process,” Franckowiak said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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