Multimedia artwork from students at Southwest Open School is on display at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitors Center and Museum.
Before creating their artwork, 15 students visited local archaeological sites and studied the culture and textiles of the Ancestral Puebloans. They became inspired to create ceramics, paintings and dioramas using a mix of ancient techniques and creative interpretation.
“It is a very playful art show, and the students got a real sense of the material culture of the Ancestral Puebloans,” said teacher Ed Whitmer.
In a well-lighted gallery, tables of pottery depict painted animal figures, flowers and designs.
Mathew Cisco showed off his pottery with a rabbit design.
“Learning about people who walked the earth before us expands your mind,” he said. “There were more people living here in the past than I thought.”
Loris Stone’s pottery pieces were inspired by nature and by the stories behind ancient designs that she learned during tours of the museum with curator Bridget Ambler.
“The people did not just make them at random, they did it for a purpose,” Stone said. “Seeing the artwork at the bottom of the bowl made the meal more special.”
Painter Christian Martinez was inspired by the symbolism of the Native American culture seen on ancient rock art and pottery. His psychedelic painting is a collage of animals, both real and imagined, and he added aliens as well.
“The people before us left behind cool beliefs and liked to draw, so I came up with some of my own ideas,” Martinez said, including a walking fish and other creative creatures. “Having a show at a museum where people can admire your work is like a reward.”
When Ashley Lopez saw the towering architecture of Cliff Palace dwelling, it gave her the idea to paint skyscrapers in vivid colors. The whole project brought the class together, she added, and brought out “our creative and team spirit.”
When student Bailey Landin saw an ancient cup with a secret rattle at the museum, she decided to give the technique a try and made ceramic rat with beads that also “rat-tled,” she quipped. “We learned how they made pottery using the coil method; it was fun making our own designs.”
Gigi Baxtrom was intrigued by the “impressive detail” of ancient pottery and the resourcefulness of the early Native Americans.
“The used the resources they had available and had to make it all by hand. It was original,” she said.
SWOS and the monument’s museum plan to continue the collaborative art project for future classes.
“The students really rose to the occasion, and it’s really beautiful to see their imagination and thoughtfulness,” said Marietta Eaton, manager for the museum and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
The student art show will run for two weeks.