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Planning for future art

Ashland High School artists get a chance to connect with local galleries

The annual student art show sponsored by the Ashland Gallery Association debuted at the First Friday Art Walk March 5. The artwork by Ashland High School students will be on display through the end of the month.

Some galleries will be exhibiting work by two or three students, depending on its size, and some of the art will be for sale. Last year, several students sold all of their exhibited work.

AHS art instructor Linda Thurow says that this is an important show, "especially for the students who hope to pursue their art beyond high school."

As their talent develops, Thurow says, the students are encouraged to use their knowledge in creative and imaginative ways and begin to form a portfolio for college or career.

The focus, Thurow says, "is on investigation, growth and discovery."

Monte Fraser, co-owner with his wife, Teresa, of the Jewelry Studio & Art Gallery, met with each art class and introduced the students to the business part of the field, learning to present themselves professionally.

"I wanted to set it up to have the kids contact the galleries," Fraser says.

"I wanted the galleries to treat the students as they would treat any artist."

Fraser told the students they would be expected to make appointments with galleries, dress appropriately and present a portfolio of their work.

Students also were encouraged to write a biography and artist's statement to be hung next to their work.

Fraser's plan met with mixed success. He asked the students to contact galleries by a certain date, he says, but "only a few did that."

So he's learned some lessons of his own along the way.

"I plan to get involved earlier next year," he says, and he wants to talk to students who indicate interest in participating, rather than entire classes.

Fraser says his talks stressed that "just because you want to be an artist doesn't mean that's all you have to think about.

"You have to make sure you present yourself well to a gallery owner - you're trying to sell yourself," he says.

And above all, "don't interrupt a possible sale."

He also talked about portfolios and brought one well-done example with him.

"The portfolio should include a bio, an artist's statement and color copies of the work. It doesn't have to be elaborate," Fraser says.

"And bring it with you when you go to the galleries," he adds, stressing the importance of not taking up the gallery owner's time unnecessarily.

Fraser says that he's adopting the long-standing AGA Student Show as a pet project for himself and his gallery.

"We're trying to make it a more important event," he says.

"The goal," Fraser says, "is to get to kids who see this as more than just a hobby after high school."

A self-described "reformed juvenile delinquent," Fraser's mentoring inspiration ignited a couple of years ago when he saw the work of a graffiti artist on a building in Phoenix.

He sought out the artist and worked with him.

"And the kid began to take his art seriously, and now has a job as a graphic artist, and makes more money than I do," Fraser says. "It made me realize that you can reach a few kids, it just takes someone willing to take the time."

Among his long-term plans, Fraser hopes to start a mentoring program of his own next year, with jewelry internships for two students.

"Once you get out of high school," he says, "no one is going to cut you any slack.