CONTRIBUTED BY XUEYAN MU
The last year of high school can mean a lot of things. It can mean senioritis, graduation parties and looking to the future. Perhaps, most importantly, it means an opportunity to reflect on one’s growth and achievements.
For whatever medium, whether it be painting, dancing or playing an instrument, upperclassmen artists are able to reflect on how their artform has progressed throughout high school.
Senior Evan Jacobson, a saxophonist who plays in multiple jazz collectives, recognizes how his perspectives on art have developed with time.
“I started out because I thought was the cool, hip thing to do,” Jacobson said. “Then I realized that I really liked how so much of it is free playing. You never play the same song twice, it’s different every single time. I thought that was really cool, and it drew me in.”
For senior Xueyan Mu, their paintings have shifted to focus more on experimenting, rather than reaching an arbitrary standard.
“In the beginning, I was really focused on trying to be a ‘good artist,’” Mu said. “I think a lot of people are stuck in that trap when they’re in middle school. I’ve gotten more comfortable straying from that ideal of perfection, and I’m more so trying to experiment with what I think is beautiful.”
On top of sharpening their understanding of art, senior artists are now more cognizant of ways to improve as a student progressing through high school.
Pen and pencil illustrator Susie Steinfield believes that surrounding herself with fellow artists helped with maintaining motivation.
“Find other people who also like to do ,” Steinfield said. “That was difficult for me at first because not a lot of my friends did art at the high school. Once I found other people who did, I found it great to have other people to talk to, and I think it helped me stick with it.”
Jacobson stressed the importance of taking an art form seriously, and how it ultimately makes it more entertaining.
“You have to keep practicing,” Jacobson said. “A lot of people think it will be fun in the beginning when it’s not very serious, but as you get more involved, that’s when it really gets more and more fun.”
Naturally, no artist was without some sort of struggle or challenge to face. However, they overcame such challenges head-on and eventually emerged with a better grasp of the art form.
Mathew Steele, a hip-hop and contemporary dancer, struggled with flexibility problems that prevented him from performing essential moves. Ultimately, he was able to conquer this setback and expresses his gratefulness for being able to do so.
“I went to and I talked to dance specialists who worked with people who wanted to dance but didn’t have the ability to get to a certain level because of a bodily issues,” Steele said. “They helped me excel past it. I still have to keep up with my stretches and things like that, but even though it’s more work, it was totally worth it.”
Steinfield has wrestled with the time management aspect of her art, but understands that it is for good reason.
“It’s super time-consuming,” Steinfield said. “It was definitely a sacrifice to make, it takes time inside and outside of school. But I think it was worth it. It’s like any skill, like going to soccer practice or learning an instrument. It takes time.”
Whether or not they believe it is a viable career option, the senior artists express their desire to retain their interests for as much as life permits. Steele hopes to maintain his ability to dance for as long as possible, as he appreciates both the mental and physical merit of doing it.
“I want to keep it around for as long as humanly possible,.” Steele said. “It’s one of those things that you can do that takes your mind off of the world. It’s a really good release, it’s good for yourself and your health, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
For Mu, art is not something that can feasibly be given up.
“I kind of want to be an artist when I grow up,” Mu said. “I can’t really imagine a life without it. A significant part of my identity would be gone.”