Anonymous artists of the Makerspace

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Eva Pace, Arts Editor
@espcourant

Many of NCHS’ commended artists come to public attention through the school’s annual Senior Art Show or events held at the Carriage Barn. However, students have recently been exhibiting their talent in an unlikely place: the library Makerspace. Michelle Luhtala, Library Media Specialist, has been taking artwork created by students in the Makerspace and posting it publically around the library, bringing to light the many anonymous artists NCHS has hidden inside its walls.

This intricate eye design was created using a variety of mediums including paint and marker. Photo by Eva Pace

The art in the Makerspace tends to come and go in waves, as noticed by Library Media Specialist Jacquelyn Whiting. “I like it because it’s a little measure of what students think about in their free time. There seems to be a theme in how the work emerges,” Ms. Whiting said. “There will be a corner table that has lots of superhero drawings, then there will be an entire corner of another table that’s all anime, or near the holiday season there will be a lot of holiday drawings.”

However, for the librarians, maintaining the supplies in the Makerspace so that students can continue to take advantage of the space is no easy task. Ms. Luhtala takes it into her own hands, the space while keeping an eye out for stand-out work that she feels deserves publication. “Tables are tricky, we find that students do really nice artwork when the tables have fresh paper but then somebody will come through and scrawl something that needs to be erased,” she said. “We snap pictures all the time of student art. We even have an Instagram page. If it looks complete and it shows effort, we tend to post it.”

There are dozens of artists that contribute to the artwork seen on the walls around the Makerspace. However, many of them are not willing to share their commentary as anonymity is very important to them. This is something that Ms. Whiting sees as a crucial component of Makerspace artwork. “Frankly, nobody has ever come up to me and said ‘Oh wow, that artwork is mine, thanks for hanging it.’ It’s truly anonymous,” she said.

A student creates a lizard out of duct tape and springs for Mr. Joshi. Photo from @mluhtala

“People are making the art without expecting any notoriety or expecting anything to be displayed anywhere. They accept that when it is done someone may come along and destroy it, and they’re okay with that.”

Yet, the Makerspace artwork begs the question: why aren’t these students using their artistic talent in an art room? Jeanne McDonagh, a photography teacher at NCHS, feels that while doing this kind of art is different than what would be created in a classroom, it is still very impressive. “This is set up like your own studio, you can go and get inspired by something and execute it however you please,” she said.  “It reminds me of a Montessori approach where you go at your own speed. It’s nice to have something like this because in an art class it’s more structured, so you have a specific assignment where you can’t just doodle.”

Nonetheless, Mrs. McDonagh sees the benefits of doing artwork in a classroom setting, and encourages student artists to join an art class in order to further hone their skills. “Introductory and second-level art courses are all about teaching skills like rendering space, but there isn’t the freedom to go and do your own thing,” she said. “I would definitely encourage students who draw in the Makerspace to take an art class because they’d learn skills that would even further strengthen their artistic abilities.”

Students work using paint pens on the black Makerspace tables. Photo by Eva Pace

Senior Claudia Guerrero is one artist who is willing to share her thoughts about the artwork she has created in the Makerspace. She takes AP Drawing, but also loves the unique platform that the Makerspace has provided to promote student creativity. “Young artists who want to share their talent in the Makerspace should go for it,” Claudia said. “The whole purpose of the Makerspace is to encourage students to create things. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not Ms. Luhtala posts it.”

However, even students who aren’t artists themselves are able to appreciate the artwork around the library. Junior Nikki Martin thinks that the Makerspace is a great addition to the library because it promotes creativity. “Especially early on, the atmosphere that the art provides in the library is notable,” she said. “Even though I’m not one of those creative students, I’ve seen people make a variety of things by using the tools provided in the space so the area is definitely beneficial.”

Be sure to take a closer look at the artwork you see as you pass by the Makerspace on your way into the library. You’d be surprised by the talent of your peers that so often goes unrecognized! Also, check out more of these anonymous artist’s artwork on Ms. Luhtala’s Instagram, @nchslibrary.

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Eva is a reporter and sophomore at New Canaan High School.

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