by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - 'Better Late Than Never,' a painting by OCHS Art Club member Maggie Atchley, is on display now at Big Dog Coffee Shop in Oregon City.Art is usually an individual creative effort, with ideas working their way through the brain onto canvas or paper.

But the showing of art should be a community event, noted Oregon City High School art teacher Nicholas Jay Liebrecht.

Nineteen of his extracurricular Art Club students are showing their work at the Big Dog Coffee Shop on Molalla Avenue, now through the first week in March.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Beth Murphy, a senior at OCHS, shows off her painting, entitled 'Wonderland.' The art exhibit at the coffee shop was part of her senior project.Calling the show a “real-world application,” Liebrecht said it is important to share student work with the community, to generate awareness about the art program.

“For a school like ours, with a vibrant art department, we want to remind people that we exist,” he said.

Another goal was to get some foot traffic into Big Dog Coffee Shop, and expose people to that, as well.

“Not a lot of teens knew about the coffee shop, which replaced one that closed, and the shop has this great upper room. Matt Perry, the owner, told me that the weekend after we installed the art show was their busiest ever,” Liebrecht said.

The formal name of the art show is “Inspired by Comics and Cartoons — a show paying tribute to childhood inspirations and influences.”

The 33 pieces, mostly paintings, interspersed with pencil and charcoal drawings and photography, reflect student interest in a variety of cultural influences, from anime to Disney and beyond.

Art Club member Beth Murphy came up with the idea for the show as part of her senior project, and she also was instrumental in hanging it at the coffee shop.

Her piece, titled “Wonderland,” depicts Alice in silhouette form, surrounded by brilliant colors.

Art is important to retain in a school’s curriculum, because it allows for creative expression, and “if people aren’t creative, how are we going to get new ideas for products and for our economy?” she said.

“Kids at school don’t get the chance to appreciate art, and this show also helps support a local business,” Murphy added.

Wyatt Hinze, a junior, said his drawings are usually inspired by music, and he described art as “a good outlet for emotions and a good way to think.”

Art should be shared with the community, he said, adding, “Most people at school won’t appreciate art, since they are running from class to class. But a stranger may see a deeper meaning in it.”

Junior Rachel Madison said her two charcoal pieces, “Kiss the Girl” and “Kiss the Bride,” were inspired by Disney movies she saw when she was a child.

“Kiss the Girl” is her imagining what Ariel, from “The Little Mermaid,” would look like now, she said.

“Drawing is soothing and cathartic; drawing makes me feel better. Art is helpful to children when they are going through a tough time — it helps get emotions out. Art is good for the brain and helps you learn,” she added.

Drake MacFarlane, a senior, noted that his piece, “Adventure Wars,” is the result of mixing cultural genres together; in this case, he has re-imagined the classic “Star Wars” poster with Darth Vader to include characters from “Adventure Time,” a popular TV cartoon show.

He has shown his work publicly before, and said it is important to have art shows because “it gives our students validation for their work, to have others look at it and appreciate it. It makes it really special, being an artist and being seen.”

Fellow senior Emily Leonetti agreed, saying, “I love showing my art; it shows what I’m thinking without using words. It is a reassurance that your art is good enough to be displayed.”

Her piece, “The Happiest Cage Owner,” portrays Minnie and Mickey Mouse, dressed in their traditional Disney garb, as test mice in a cage.

“I brought in the irony of Minnie and Mickey as real mice in a cage, and combined that with the Disneyland slogan as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth.’ It is an ironic contrast,” she added.

Community support

Liebrecht said that the community support for the art show has been positive, and many of the pieces have been sold.

It is exhilarating for the students to make $25 from their pieces; it is money “generated by something that you love to do,” he said.

There is no budget allocated for Art Club, so all the pieces in the show were made with supplies that the students could afford. Some students could not participate, because of economic reasons.

Liebrecht has never had a problem getting enough students to be members of the club, he said, because the creative culture is “engendered in the culture” at OCHS.

There should not have to be an explanation for why art should be in the curriculum, Liebrecht said, noting, “Art helps you think creatively. It is critical thinking and problem-solving.”

On a practical note, he added that most universities require a fine-arts credit in order to be admitted.

Looking ahead to June, Liebrecht said that the OCHS Art Club already is planning a photography show, and he hopes the community will be as supportive of this endeavor as it has been of the current show.

Fast facts

See the OCHS art show upstairs at Big Dog Coffee Shop, 107 Molalla Ave., in Oregon City. The coffee shop is open 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Call 503-655-3200.

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