By Merle Exit
The High School to Art School program — an annually, fully subsidized portfolio development program — opened its studio doors to the public, displaying students accomplishments from their summer program.
The HS2AS program provides qualified high school juniors and seniors with art skills training, mentorship, essay writing techniques, college application assistance and financial aid planning, helping them to earn acceptance into competitive art colleges.
HS2AS sessions are scheduled in the spring, summer, and fall. They take place at QCA headquarters, located in the Kaufman Arts District in Astoria. In the past three years, students were awarded over $2 million in scholarships. Instructors are graduates of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art as well as being practicing artists living and working in New York.
Fern Vargas is one of the instructors. The summer program is made up of mostly high school seniors preparing to enroll in art schools such as Cooper Union.
“This is the work of the past summer,” Vargas said. “We take on artists from every gamut of skills, from those who are used to drawing to students with an interest. One hundred percent of the students get into schools.”
Alika Feldman usually works in black and white, using pen and ink. She was part of QCA last year as well.
“My section of the exhibit was mostly an assortment of smaller, inked works,” Feldman said. “Like many art students, I was very nervous working in a larger scale, worried I’d either mess up or lose interest. However, this year I decided to tackle large rolls of paper and work in what used to be my most hated medium, oil pastel.”
After completing her two main works, Feldman said that she grew to love pastels and has even started a large series that branches off of her largest work from the exhibit, the close-up of her hands and feet. As for her joining the program for almost two years, it is all about the teachers.
“They really know how to motivate students and help enrich their art style,” Feldman said. “Throughout the summer, not only has my art changed for the better, but my attitude towards it changed, too. I started to enjoy the working process, no matter how long it took.”
Feldman mentioned that she began to go out of her comfort zone, experimenting with medium that she hadn’t used.
“Most importantly, I’ve started challenging myself instead of waiting for others to challenge me.”
The whole program is made up of only 15 students, which gives the instructors one-on-one time with every person.
“I’ve watched not only myself grow this past month, but every single student around me,” Feldman said. “I’m so thankful for this program for guiding me and introducing me to another artistic side of myself that I wouldn’t have been able to uncover without them.”
Another student, Esther Oh, drew a life-size self portrait, which she said was based on an adversity she had struggled with for a long time, and still does from time to time.
“As any other human, I’ve gone through difficult seasons in my life, and sometimes in those moments all we want to do is run away from them,” Oh said. “In doing so, an embedment of issues, whether I recognized at the time or not, had started manifesting within myself. In the portrait, I am reaching out to something, but am looking back. The position of myself is an embodiment of my struggle between trying to move forward, but not being able to because of the past that I had never healed from, because I ran away from it.”
Oh used oil pastels for her portrait, which melded together to create a movement on her body.
“That was to not only represent the certain shadows and highlights on my body, but also to symbolize my desire to want to change for the better, through that movement. I am posed as if I am reaching out towards something in the light, which depicts my aspiration to grow in my faith. But on the left corner, clouds are drawn in order to show my past that’s holding me back.”
As for the program, Oh said that it helped her develop and learn as an artist in a multitude of ways.
“It was something that I loved doing, but never invested into until now. Many, or even all, (of) the things that had been taught and assigned in this class were very new to me,” Oh said. “The materials, the techniques, the perspective of art, it was all very challenging, yet enjoyable to learn and see. I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity, because it has helped me stir my interest in art even more, while still stimulating me to learn in new ways that I had never expected prior to this program.”