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High Tech High Media Arts Serves Up Interactive Art Experiences

Old School Vs. Now exhibition tonight only

Photo caption:

Photo by Guillermo Sevilla

High Tech High Media Arts senior Joshua Espinoza works on his Dada and Vaporwave project for the Old School Vs. Now interactive arts showcase, May 11, 2017.


Margaret Noble, artist and High Tech High arts/technology teacher

Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter


High Tech Media Arts graduating seniors will be holding an exhibition Tuesday night of interactive art projects connecting their lives to art movements of the past. It’s called Old School Vs. Now.

High Tech Media Arts graduating seniors will be holding an exhibition Tuesday night of interactive art projects connecting their lives to art movements of the past. It’s called Old School Vs. Now.

High Tech High Media Arts students are doing something seemingly rare for kids these days in school: they are learning to think.

Senior Bryce Kerr has been thinking about propaganda art, feminism and specifically the famous “We Can Do It” poster that appeared briefly in the 1940s to get women into the work force and then resurfaced decades later as an iconic image for the women’s movement.

"This [poster] actually sparked another wave of feminism in the '60s when you see a lot of protests about job equality. So I wouldn’t say propaganda is good or bad but it’s something that has sparked a lot of things and propaganda indirectly started this movement for feminism," Kerr said.

Photo caption:

Photo by Guillermo Sevilla

Connor Sweeny and Bryce Kerr discuss the video game they created about propaganda art and how the "We Can Do It" poster played a role in the women's movement, May 11, 2017.

Kerr is one of 50 students working in pairs and preparing interactive arts projects for an exhibition called Old School Vs. Now. It reflects the project-based learning High Tech High advocates and that English teacher Sani Vanderspek teaches.

"We’re trying to have students leave the classroom with an inquiry, and leaving with wanting to ask more questions about the world and not have this idea where 'Oh I’m finished, I’m throwing my books on the ground, I’m graduating' but questioning the world around them and answering those questions too," Vanderspek said.

Joshua Espinoza, a senior, wanted to use the Dada art movement of the early 20th century to discuss the contemporary vaporwave genre that uses music and memes to satirize corporate and consumerist culture.

"This [Marcel Duchamp's Fountain] is an example of an art piece made by an artist and it’s just a turned upside down toilet seat, which would not be considered art to most people but it has meaning, which questions art’s norms and that was really interesting to me because what vaporwave has shown me is not only is it not just a random art piece but it says that anything can be art with a message you just have to take the time to look at it," Espinoza explained.

Helping students take that time to appreciate those messages is artist and teacher Margaret Noble.

"Right now students are finishing up their final projects," Noble said. "They are very interdisciplinary projects, first grounded in research and then expressed through interactive media looking at art movements throughout history and how they pertain to their lives now so they are just wrapping it up in the classroom now getting ready for exhibition."

High Tech High: Old School Vs.Now

The exhibition will showcase about two-dozen interactive art experiences that highlight movements as diverse as pop art, minimalism, performance art, impressionism and magical realism.

Emily Sanchez worked with Sierra Clegg to explore the Catholic Church’s involvement in Italian Baroque art.

"Actually our research concluded two different things so it was hard to pinpoint the intention of Baroque art," Sanchez said. "So my research showed that some of the artwork was more rebellious toward the church and it included civilians, like everyday civilians, so it was interesting that a lot of people got offended by this by mixing everyday people with Biblical characters whereas Sierra’s research said it was mainly for the church."

Vanderspek said students work on research papers that start with larger questions.

"Like what was happening in the world? What is an art movement? And what is the art movement pushing against or what does a movement in history or a social movement push against? What is that history?" Vanderspek asked. "And then we move to now, which is what are we pushing against now, what are artists doing what do these students want to say, what is their message?"

Those questions are then incorporated into the digital projects that Noble oversees.

"Each student actually has an interactive experience so they are going to invite you to their station they are going to facilitate a conversation with you and you are going to walk into their graphics essentially with your mind and go through a lot of different choices that they are hoping will provoke you to think about their topic," Noble stated.

Student Jack Schwatrz wanted to use magic realism to explore contemporary refugee issues.

"We wanted to show the Syrian refugee crisis in a different way," he said. "We’ve all seen the shocking photos of the child on the beach and I think we wanted to show something that wasn’t as abrasive but it showed the struggle the refugees are facing."

Some students create video games while others use a documentary style to convey information but Noble said the hope is that each one starts a conversation.

"I really proud of their work, I think it is really excellent and I hope that we get a lot of audience members to join us to see what high school kids can do," she said.

And to see how learning to think and ask questions is something we can all benefit from

The graduating seniors of High Tech High Media Arts will present their interactive arts showcase Old School Vs. Now on impressions of social, cultural, technological, and ideological constructs as interpreted through historical art movements from 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday. The exhibit is at High Tech High Media Arts' Main Commons at 2230 Truxtun Road on the third floor.

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