Artists pass on skills to La Pietra students
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Pinhole camera workshop with Mary Belanger
La Pietra i Hawaii School for Girls, 2933 Poni Moi Road
9 a.m.-4 p.m. tomorrow (Open Lab on Sunday)
$45 per person. Open to the public.
Annie Rogers at La Pietra, 922-2744
Likewise, Rogers-Sato's colleague Linda Strong has more than the requisite experience to teach her students the finer points of ceramics and sculpting. But with full-time professionals such as Claude Horan, Sandy Anderson and Esther Shimazu hanging out in the hallways, why not pull up a seat and pick up a few pointers?
Such are the can't-lose situations La Pietra has enjoyed over the past 15 years thanks to its Guest Artist Program.
Financed by a bequest from Beatrice Watson Parrent, the program brings renowned artists from across the country and around the state to the picturesque campus to share their skills with La Pietra students in grades seven through 12. Of the 20 or so artists who visit each year, at least two come from out of state.
Past visitors have included researcher Betty Edwards, author of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," and the late Native American potter Lucy Lewis.
"The program broadens our students' horizons and gives them exposure to professionals practicing in their own specialty," said Rogers-Sato, the program's coordinator. "We have teachers who can teach these things, but it's a little different when you have a person who does it professionally."
La Pietra, which requires study in fine arts as part of its overall curriculum, has gained a reputation for the quality of its art instruction, particularly in the area of photography. Rogers-Sato said several students, inspired by their interactions with professional artists, have gone on to study at fine arts colleges on the Mainland.
Junior Maile Fujikawa's experiences with various guest artists has her thinking of art as a possible major when she attends college. Among her favorites was a workshop conducted by jewelry artist Ryan Ho.
"I like hands-on things more," she said. "We did a lot of metal work. I never did welding or etching or anything like that before. It was a lot of fun."
Like her classmates, Fujikawa has developed multiple skills. In the school's art gallery hangs a tempera, conte and pencil drawing of a horse's head that Fujikawa completed this year. Nearby hang sophisticated pieces by fellow students, from charcoal drawings to hand-colored photos to PhotoShop collages.
The art building also bears the marks of its visiting professionals, most conspicuously a porcelain, slab-constructed rendering of Diamond Head by Paula Winokur that hangs above the entrance to the first-floor office.
"Most of these artists are well known, so I just call them up and ask if they'll come," Rogers-Sato said. "Our interest is in finding artists who are not just professionals, but people who are good at teaching. I think the artists we've had really enjoy the interaction and being able to share their knowledge and expertise."
The school covers all of the guest artists' expenses and compensates them for their class time. Most guest artists are scheduled six months to a year in advance.
"The artists supplement the regular art instruction," Strong said. "The strength of the program is that we have a plan."
Actual instruction is left up to the initiative and imagination of the guest artist. When acclaimed underwater wedding photographer Gigi Clark visited, she commandeered the campus pool for two nights and left the students with a collection of once-in-a-lifetime shots of themselves as underwater models.
Guest artists typically teach for up to one week at a time, and many such as Belanger make it a point to return each year.
"I think it's great," Belanger said. "I've seen girls that I taught when they were in seventh grade. Now they're 12th-graders and they're so different."
Belanger's return visit to La Pietra this weekend coincides with World Pinhole Day, celebrating the simplest form of a camera, made using just a box with a pinhole.
The Big Island photographer said she enjoys the reaction of students as they discover the wonder of photography using something as simple as an oatmeal box.
"I don't get into the science of it," she said. "I'd like them to be more intuitive in their approach."
Said Rogers-Sato: "As art teachers, we also learn from these artists. It's like ongoing professional training."
On the Web:
World Pinhole Day Web site: www.pinholeday.org