Friday, February 22, 2019

Flashes of Brilliance: Illinois High School Art Exhibition at the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport

Hazel Mcclinton, Rockford Jefferson High School

Life seemed relatively easy when I was seventeen. It was a time before cellphones, social media and the 24/7 news cycle. People interacted differently. Relationships were built on gradual discovery and respect was learned through an attempt at understanding differences through experience… There was no hiding behind a text or a tweet.

Well, last Friday I found myself exploring what it’s like to be seventeen in 2019. I spent much of the afternoon previewing the Illinois High School Art Exhibition currently on display in the second-floor gallery of the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport [Chicago]. The exhibition includes more than 600 works of art created by high school artists from around the state. The collection offers a snapshot of the seventeen-year-old’s reality. The associated angst is apparent in many of the works, but the show presents a new perspective from the next generation’s worldview.

I found myself wondering slowly through the show. The work—hung salon style—is a curatorial choice that offers something new to explore with a slight turn of the head. 

Natalie Wess, Adlai E. Stevenson High School

The show includes imagery that is “safe” and typical of the age—showing the skills of a future illustrator or designer—but there are also new and unexpected expressions. I found pieces which seemed to be created specifically for shock value. But then I questioned… Was the image solely meant to be shocking or was the content the new normal in our quickly changing society?

Throughout the show, there are special flashes of unique beauty and thoughtful brilliance. The exhibition includes a number of courageous young artists who are not afraid to speak their truth—sometimes with startling effect and sometimes through skillful symbolism. The visual vocabulary found throughout the gallery even offers a learning opportunity for those of us who have been around for a while longer.

Brianna Bischoff, St. Charles North High School

At the conclusion of several walks through the exhibition, I began assessing the mission for which I was attending. I reconvened with Cheryl Jefferson and Richard Laurent, colleagues of the Breaking Criminal Traditions initiative who were also exploring the show. We were looking for artwork that spoke to various human rights issues. You see, the BCT initiative will be presenting an award for relevant work [intentional or not] at a ceremony this Sunday afternoon [2:30pm] at the Bridgeport Art Center—a couple of blocks west of the Zhou B Art Center IHSAE exhibition.

Jennifer Branch, Downers Grove South High School

Please join us this Sunday for the IHSAE at the Zhou B Art Center , Sunday, February 24th from 10-4pm. The event will also include a College Recruitment Fair from 10-2 [BAC], Vendor & Career Expo 10-4 [ZBAC] and an opportunity to visit artist studios at both locations. This is a free event and open to the public. Please remember to come by the IHSAE awards ceremony which will be held at the Bridgeport Art Center from 2:30-3:30pm. The Illinois High School Art Exhibition runs through March 9th. 

Special thanks to Assistant Director, Chris Sykora [Deerfield High School] and Executive Director, John Zilewicz [Niles West High School], for producing this enriching event!

Download the schedule of events

ABOUT: The Illinois High School Art Exhibition:

The General Exhibition is one of Illinois’ premier high school art exhibitions featuring student visual artworks from some of the top city, suburban, public and private high schools. The General Exhibition is a “Best of the Best” competition, developed by teachers, to recognize high school students’ artistic excellence.

Each year, over 100 high schools register to participate in the General Exhibition in Chicago. High schools digitally submit up to 25 artworks into 8 categories: Drawing, Painting, Mixed Media, Design, Photography, Pottery, Sculpture, and Time Arts. 

The IHSAE receives well over 2500 submissions for consideration for the General Exhibition. All entries are curated by the IHSAE Board of Directors and guest jurors, who select works by over 500 student artists for exhibition. Students have an opportunity to compete against their peers for over $15,000 in IHSAE awards and scholarships, including the IHSAE Visionary Award. Students also have an opportunity to receive Early College/Summer Intensive scholarships offered by representatives from select art schools, colleges and universities across the country.

Learn more about The Illinois High School Art Exhibition at

1 comment:

  1. Here,I think you capture eloquently the gravitas of these young artists as they reflect their innermost feelings about growing up in our culture.