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Park City High School Graduate Channels Anxieties Into Art

  A 2020 Park City High School graduate is presenting her digital painting in an exhibit at the Springville Art Museum. 


The museum received more than 300 submissions from Utah students ranging from kindergartners to seniors in high school.

The project was inspired by the isolation and uncertainty many are experiencing because of COVID-19.


Associate Director of the Springville Museum of Art Jenessa Van Buren was surprised to have nearly 350 submissions to the student art exhibit, titled “Up Close and Far Away.” The museum has programs that serve schools, students, and teachers across the state. 


Not being able to hold their annual All-State Art Show inspired them to ask students to submit artwork showing how their experiences have changed due to the social restrictions caused by COVID-19. 


Van Buren says they received entries showing a range of poignant student experiences including grief, frustration, and loneliness. Other entries, they say, show unexpected benefits of the outbreak.

“We have put all submissions available through the exhibition,” Van Buren said. “To us it was just kind of a way to respond to what was happening and to provide an outlet for these students [to] kind of express some of the challenges of kind of what's happening with our world right now.”


Students in the graduating class of 2020 were denied that final, long-awaited senior spring quarter. The collective experience of senior pranks and coordinated senior cut day, signing yearbooks, and lining up to walk together in a graduation ceremony, were canceled or revised due to COVID-19. 


Park City High School graduate  Remy Eichner leaves for college in early July. She’s playing soccer for Southern Utah University and they start season training before classes begin in August. She says art has always been a part of her life and she was inspired by the strange times to submit her digital oil painting to the exhibit. 


She says it’s not a self-portrait, but more a reflection of what her classmates had to adjust to in response to missing so much of their high school senior experience. 


“I just want to look on the bright side that my whole family’s been healthy, and we were kept safe, and, you know, going to college,” she said. “I feel fortunate that we're all safe. And yeah, just to experience life as you go through it. And it's OK that we missed a few months and we missed graduation.”


Eichner says she’s been using the electronic painting medium for some time now and she plans to study graphic design in college.


“I use brushes that are oil brushes on Photoshop,” she said. “So, you can sketch out, and then select the colors in oil, and the computer program will actually blend the colors. So, it feels like you're actually painting. I love using Photoshop for paintings. You can use all these different types of brushes and textures and it's been really fun to experiment with Photoshop.” 


She created her painting in March, right after schools and businesses closed for what many assumed would be just a few weeks of shutdowns. By mid-April, Gov. Gary Herbert announced schools would remain closed through the end of the school year. 


“I wanted to create a piece that reflected the time with the quarantine and corona and the graduates who aren't able to actually experience the end of their senior year,” Eichner said. “So, [I] kind of sketched and it became that. It wasn't a self-portrait but yeah it just reflected my feelings at the time.” 


Because Eichner will be training with her SUU soccer team beginning in July, she’ll miss Park City High School’s delayed graduation event, which is scheduled for July 31 at Deer Valley. 


“When I went to get my diploma, I was able to see all my teachers and say goodbye and it was really nice.,” she said. “So just having those little experiences, I still got to graduate. I still got those four years with all of my classmates and it's all right that we didn't get a graduation ceremony or everything else and that's all right.” 


View "Up Close And Far Away" at the Springville Museum of Art's website.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.