Student curators help visitors conquer fears through CAC summer art show
By Maddie Yerant
A theme of the Carmel Arts Council’s new exhibit may be fear, but its high school curators Ethan McAndrews and Ally Russell aren’t scared for audiences to see what they’ve put together.
“There was no point where we were like, ‘Ah!’” Russell said. “Sometimes it was stressful, but we got everything done and now we’re ready to go.”
Russell and McAndrews are the student brains behind the Carmel Arts Council’s newest exhibit, Big Bad World and Conquering Fear in a Modern Society, which opened the Children’s Art Gallery earlier this month. It will run until Aug. 30.
After being carefully selected by the Carmel Arts Council for its Emerging Curator program, which began last year, Russell and McAndrews were tasked with sifting through the Carmel High School cyber art show to select 15 pieces and create a theme for the summer exhibit.
“They found this commonality of fear,” said Donna Tutwiler, CAC membership chairwoman and founder of the program. “Their plan is you start with fear and look at all the different pieces of art they have hanging, and in the end, you realize the human spirit is a lot stronger than you think, and yes, you can conquer your fears.”
According to Russell, those fears can be different from person to person – and generation to generation.
“People of this generation – especially high schoolers – are (dealing) with these new technological developments,” Russell said. “It’s different types of fear that we’re facing.”
Russell said the challenge was in balancing their darker theme with something more positive to suit their audience and artists.
“We thought (fear) was a little too dark for a high school exhibition, so we also wanted to talk about conquering fear,” Russell said.
Russell said they used the gallery space to reconcile those two ideas.
“In the first room you can see all the pieces that surround fear,” Russell said. “Then if you go to the second room, it’s about how we’ve conquered those fears, and the two kind of juxtapose each other nicely, because there’s a little levity in the second room.”
According to McAndrews, keeping a sense of space and progression in mind was important to their plan for the exhibition.
“We just really wanted, as you progress throughout the exhibit, for you to feel the theme of how fears can be conquered through human spirit and emotions,” McAndrews said.
After all, McAndrews said, the pieces work best together rather than alone.
“They all bring something dynamic to it, and the sum of the pieces is greater than itself,” McAndrews said. “Together, I think they all work to form this entire theme instead of one piece just highlighting and being a showcase.”
If the two sound more excited about art than you’d expect from high school students, that’s sort of the point.
CAC member and Indiana Museum of Art curator Harriet Warkel, who helped select and train Russell and McAndrews, said both students have exactly the qualities she was looking for in her curators.
“I’m looking for someone who’s passionate about art, who has the ability to analyze art,” Warkel said. “I think I’ve been lucky. There’re not always two that would work well together; there’s not always two people you find that are really great. We’ve been lucky. They understand the artwork.”
Russell and McAndrews, though, won’t take all the credit. They point to Carmel High School’s talented pool of student artists as the real focal point of the show.
“It’s just the enormous amount of talent Carmel High School has to offer,” McAndrews said. “You know, all these artists are still in high school, and we’re putting on an art show in an art gallery with all their works. It’s just that great.”
Russell said she can hardly believe the artists are her own age.
“I don’t know where they come from, and I don’t know how they all get to Carmel High School, but they do, and I think it’s really nice that we have all this incredible art,” Russell said. “It’s not like student art – it’s like real art.”
Russell said she hopes that talent is what audiences take away from the exhibit.
If you look around, you can see any of these high schoolers could pursue a career in art, no problem,” Russell said. “I know a lot of schools are kind of cutting art programs, and I think it’s really important they see high schoolers can do this.”
Meet Ally Russell
Grade: Incoming senior
Favorite artwork/genre: Woman of Willendorf
Favorite museum: Musée d’Orsay
Favorite non-art subject: English literature
Hobbies: Working for the school newspaper, reading, hiking
Meet Ethan McAndrews
Grade: Incoming junior
Favorite artwork/genre: Impressionism
Favorite museum: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Favorite non-art subject: History
Hobbies: Playing tennis, reading, traveling, hiking