Class work: Columbus Alternative High School

Rachel C. Barkeloo, Dionne Custer Edwards & Melissa Starker

Apr 26, 2021

gallery of artworks by students at Columbus Alternative High School

In a typical year, the Wex is a bustling hub for visiting classrooms. Virtually every week, groups from area schools would gather in the lower lobby to be led through the exhibition spaces by a Wex docent and members of our Learning & Public Practice team. Between our closure for part of last year and Ohio schools moving to remote-only learning for most of the past 12 months, the nature of our connections with students changed, but Zoom and other tools helped keep the relationships the LPP team has developed with several area schools strong.

One such institution is Columbus Alternative High School (CAHS). Through virtual interactions with Wex Learning & Public Practice Director Dionne Custer Edwards and curators Danny Marcus and Lucy Zimmerman, students in the school's International Baccalaureate visual art classes received an insider's view of Climate Changing and how exhibitions come together. These interactions fed into the final work produced by students for the 2020–21 Senior International Baccalaureate exhibition: Virtual Style, which is viewable online.

We're excited to offer a link to the virtual exhibition below, along with a few samples of what you'll see when you click through. Before that, Rachel C. Barkeloo, a visual arts teacher at CAHS, offers some background on the show and her school's ties to the Wex. Our sincere thanks to Barkeloo and her students for sharing their work: KB (Kabir) Abdullahi, Jazeba Ahmad, Sabreen Ahmed, Miette A.H. Bloomfield-Wells, Claire Gordon, Jaidyn Hamblin, Enya McCarthy, Mitchell McGrath, Maizy Pratt, Damion Smith, Fatimetou Sow, Leila Suarez Reid, and Sophia Wilamowska.


Rachel C. Barkeloo, Visual Arts Teacher, Columbus Alternative HS:

"Every year we get to take a field trip to the galleries at the Wexner Center for the Arts and the work sparks so much insight, ideas, creativity, and wonder in the hearts and minds of my students. The experience of being with art, hearing from the docents, reading the exhibition texts and insight from the artist's themselves, and the joy on my student's faces is beyond incredible. The student work that sparks after the field trip is awestruck and fresh. Being with art makes a huge difference in my opinion. Beyond this, the programing of Arts and Ecology and the plethora of experiences the Wex has provided over the years is truly a gift to our community.

"This year the pandemic made things slightly different. We did not do our traditional field trip to the Wex; we did, however, have an incredible Zoom with the Curators and the senior IB artists. The Zoom talk was authentic and natural. It was amazing to have the students hear from professionals in the field talk about the very same thing they were doing, showcasing art during the pandemic, and inviting people to safely take in art and not let the virus stand in our way.

"The energy and enthusiasm was strong and the takeaways from the conversation brought home final thoughts and a peace and calm as the student artists finalized their digital IB art show. The curator talk is truly an experience I want to continue for my students post-pandemic. 

"I am forever grateful to Dionne, Danny, and Lucy for their time that day renewing my charge as a teacher in the pandemic times. We all shared how isolating it can be on the Zooms all year and helping the student's artists find that final sense of comfort, enlightenment, and acknowledgment as they completed their art shows in this new way was a great "ahh ha " moment. This small chat really helped my students jump the final hurdles of being an artist in the pandemic of 2020-2021. We needed that momentum more than I knew. I am so thankful to Ken Gordon, parent of one of my students, and Dionne and the Wex for helping us navigate our final steps of making our art show come to a positive close. They aided us in the charge as we experienced and connected young artists and curators together. I look forward to where this newest spark can lead my students in the future."


The 2020–21 Senior International Baccalaureate exhibition, Virtual Style, is on view here.


Sample: Enya McCarthy

A square multi-image of single eyes with different filters and color effects

Enya McCarthy, Eye Study

"Each piece in my collection features eyes in one way or another. Eyes are the window to the soul, they guide people and sometimes eyes are present in other ways. Eyes are unsettling, they watch and observe. Eyes allow an artist to put together their masterpiece, they help children learn, they can take the place of other senses.... I organized my art show in a way that draws people to different ends of the art work, allowing their eyes to glaze over the works and guide themselves to a new one. When people look at this show I would like for them to feel unsettled, as if they will always be watched. I hope that the eyes follow them away from the show. I hope they also use the eyes from the pieces to think about societal issues and internal conflicts."


Sample: Mitchell McGrath

Incessant by Mitchell McGrath

Mitchell McGrath, Incessant

"This piece is inspired by the protests following the deaths of George Floyd as seen on television. A loved one of someone very dear to me is the same age as the girl pictured here. She gazes onto a world polarized and divided."


Sample: Fatimetou Sow

Rainbow Bridge by Fatimetou Sow

Fatimetou Sow, Rainbow Bridge

"Abstract art is the style I feel most comfortable with because I don't have to conform to rules and can represent anything. I got inspiration from an abstract artist from Youtube who does a similar style to this. The way color can be placed on a canvas with zero thought and then come out beautifully amazes me"


Sample: Leila Suarez-Reid

Drowning by Lelia Suarez-Reid

Leila Suarez-Reid, Drowning

"All of my art is a reflection of me and my mind when i made it. I have struggled a lot with self esteem so i often find myself painting things i see myself in so i can see the beauty in it, and appreciate it. My goal is to be able to look at my art and love it and look at myself and feel the same. Painting has helped me stay motivated during hard times... I would share my artwork throughout all of my social media accounts, and the support I got from my family and friends was incredible."

"This painting has a lot of different meanings for me. I made this [at the] beginning of COVID when things were very new and very overwhelming. I felt like I was drowning or suffocating. this painting expresses how I felt in that time and all the change and growth that has happened within me, good and bad."


Top of page: a gallery of work featured in the Columbus Alternative High School 2020–21 IB Visual Art Show, Virtual Style

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