"Broken," by Kaotee Thao, La Follette High School
“Every child is an artist,” Pablo Picasso once said. They just don’t all get to show their work.
But some lucky ones do. Every two years the “Young at Art” show at MMoCA features solo and collaborative works created by students in the Madison Metropolitan School District. This year’s exhibit is the largest to date, says Sheri Castelnuovo, the museum’s curator of education, with contributions from more than 700 students.
Castelnuovo says one of the roles of local schools is to hone students’ visual expression, and MMoCA makes a valuable contribution by displaying their art.
“Students feel their work is valued, that they’re valued and, by extension, all children’s expression is valued,” Castelnuovo says. “The public benefits by getting to see how many different ways students are expressing themselves.”
Some of the artists use traditional mediums, such as pencil, paint and sculpture; others use newer forms like Adobe Illustrator and computer animation. One animated work, presented on a computer monitor, is a collaboration between Crestwood Elementary art and music students, who scored the piece. The show also includes a wall of portraits. MMoCA staff grouped art by theme, rather than age, making for a more vibrant, eclectic experience.
Some paintings feature brightly painted robots and animals, but there are also works of surprising sophistication. Students applied concepts and skills they learned in class. “As you walk the show, you really see kids expanding their ability to think critically and apply that visually,” Castlenuovo says.
One such piece is a ceramic sculpture entitled Broken, by La Follette High School senior Kaotee Thao. The artwork is one of five chosen by MMoCA and Adams Outdoor Advertising for display on local billboards. Broken consists of a pair of shackled feet linked by a rust-colored chain to a spike that looks as if it has just been pulled from the ground. “It’s about how you can overcome any kind of obstacle, and that you grow from it,” Thao tells Isthmus.
“At ‘Young at Art’ you’re going to see a lot of fresh, insightful work exploring some profound ideas from the point of view of a young person,” Castelnuovo says. “The same kinds of habits of mind that can be seen in the sciences are also here in art. The ability to see things from multiple perspectives. To know there isn’t one sole interpretation or answer to a problem.”
“Young at Art” runs through May 10 in MMoCA’s State Street Gallery. The opening reception is Sunday, April 12, 3-4:30 pm. The East High Jazz Orchestra will perform.