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Students strut artistic skills

About 500 youth participate in CalArts’ event

Posted: July 27, 2008 12:47 a.m.
Updated: September 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Samantha King, 17, from Indiana, and Brittany McCarthy, from Merced, examine art from their classmates drawn for the animation class offered through the California State Summer School for the Arts held at CalArts.

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Just over 500 artistic high school students from California and beyond showed off their budding talents to parents and visitors on Saturday during the California State Summer School for the Arts open house at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

The summer school, also known as InnerSpark, is a state-sponsored month-long program for talented high school students that provides the teenagers a chance to explore their creativity while living on campus at the Valencia art school.

This year’s program brought 509 students from “every corner of California,” as well as other countries, including Nigeria, China and Norway, said Rob Jaffe, director of the summer art school.

On Saturday, Jaffe said the program hosted an open house for parents and alumni to meet with students. InnerSpark is currently half-way done with its four weeks of classes.

The day featured a series of speakers including Bobby Podesta, Mark Walsh, Deborah Barylski and Brian Bess, who are currently working in the art and entertainment industries.

One of the parents who attended the open house was Gary Goldman of Pacific Palisades, who was browsing charcoal portraits and hanging three-dimensional monsters created by the art students.

Goldman, whose 14-year-old son Adam is studying in InnerSpark’s music program, said he was “impressed” by what he saw on the walls.

He explained that his son has been exposed to new ideas during his time at CalArts.

“It wasn’t a repetition of the things he knows,” he said.

He is pleased with the program and said one of the most attractive aspects of InnerSpark is that it gives his son a wayto meet other artistic students and form “friendships that can last.”

Jaffe elaborated on Goldman’s thought, explaining that while the hometowns of the students will vary, every student is brought together by their “talent, values and ambitions.”

He considers InnerSpark especially important because much of the social hierarchies at the high schools the students attend are not based on the valuing the arts, but rather sports, fashion and income.

In between studying during Design I, Andrew Gohlich of Newhall, said his experience so far has been fun, yet challenging as he is studying both photography and printmaking.

“I’ve never done printmaking before,” he said.

Gohlich, 17, said he is familiar with CalArts because he has participated in Community Arts Partnership, which exposes students to what CalArts offers.

The experience has also exposed Gohlich to different types of people.

“You learn a lot about different people,” he said, adding that he has picked up phrases typically used by kids living in Northern California.

He hopes to “broaden his artistic horizons” after the program ends and also apply to CalArts in the fall.

Students go through a rigorous application process in order to take part in InnerSpark. Once the high schoolers are accepted, they study in one of seven programs, which include animation, creative writing, dance, film and video, music, theater and visual arts.

While a handful of CalArts professors teach the students, the core of teachers are practicing professional artists, musicians, writers, dancers, actors and filmmakers.

The school, which is currently in its 22nd year, is held at  CalArts, giving students a first-hand feel at life on a college campus.

Jaffe, however, maintains that the students, which are all at a high school age, are kept to strict rules.


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