Valley Oaks’ Inaugural Senior Showcase Celebrates Diversity in Art

Monday April 15, 2024

In a celebration of creativity and diversity, Valley Oaks Charter School (VOCS) held its first-ever Senior Showcase on the evening of April 11. The showcase, titled “Heterogeneity,” was planned, organized, and executed by the CTE Visual & Commercial Arts capstone students. Student art will be on display through May 10 at the Bakersfield VOCS campus on North Chester Avenue. 

Preparations for the showcase began at the start of the spring semester, with students dedicating themselves to every aspect of the exhibition, from crafting project planning logs to coordinating displays to composing artist statements, even choosing the refreshments.

Sarah Samms, VOCS art teacher guided the students throughout the process, acting as support but letting the students take charge.

“My primary role is to guide and support them,” she said.  

One of the most intriguing aspects of the showcase is its theme, which celebrates diversity in all its forms – from cultural backgrounds to artistic preferences. Each piece of artwork on display reflects this theme in unique and compelling ways.

“The showcase is about difference and pushing past our limits,” said Candace Coleman, who built a large sculpture of a charging bull. “I would have totally gone with a painting or something, but I wanted to push myself a little further and make a life-size piece for my senior year,” she said.

Candace Coleman with her mixed media sculpture Buck’s Last Shot.

Coleman says it took her 38 hours to complete her sculpture out of PVC piping, chicken wire, paper mâché and paint. She says she spent time watching her own cow and a friend’s steer to get a sense of their muscular structure.

“I love to watch the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) and I thought why not try to recreate it so that people can see it up close,” she said.

The pieces of artwork span a wide range of mediums, demonstrating the students’ versatility and creativity. Additional materials such as wood, various clay bodies, and photography were used to create stunning pieces that captivate the imagination.

Yasmeen Hussein’s piece, calligraphy on canvas, included positive affirmations and messages of kindness in Arabic. She says it was her way of embracing a new culture and adding a new perspective to a diverse art show.

“I feel like it is something different, a lot of people decided to do something different today. And we all work with diversity throughout our art class,” she said.

Clarissa Brown molded a series of cartoon animals out of clay in an arrangement that shows different perspectives in a 3D space. She says her goal was to celebrate differences by designing cute characters that are all unique in their own way.

“They have different color furs, or different hairstyles, I try to make them all very different,” she said. “Even though we’re different, we can still respect one’s ideas and just spend time with them and have a good time.”

Clarissa Brown’s clay piece: One Cream Two Sugars

Lidia Salinas, who created a series of ceramic shelves, says she’s very grateful to Samms for encouraging all the students to get out of their comfort zone and try new things.

“She would really encourage us to branch out artistically to different forms to different mediums that we hadn’t tried to learn,” she said. “[The art program] pushes us to go beyond our limits and try out new things.”

Brown agrees, saying the class has opened up her mind to embrace large-scale projects and show her what she’s capable of.

“I would have never thought I could do something like that, just really coming out of my shell and just taking risks as an artist,” she said. “It’s definitely a learning experience, that’s what I cherish.”

Lidia Salinas with her porcelain series: Incognizant Shelf Life.

Samms says the senior showcase will remain a standing exhibition with VOCS and will be open to all VOCS seniors each spring. She says the showcase stands as a testament to the students’ artistic abilities and passion for their art.

“Their sincere effort to challenge themselves has been the most pleasing aspect of Heterogeneity,” Samms said. “Each of them pored over their project with a dedication I had not seen in the last two years. All devoted far more time than what was required. I am proud of their personal success. I am inspired by their tenacity.”

Kambria Pivovaroff with her digital photography piece: International Atmosphere.

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.