New Chandler Museum exhibit showcases high school students' responses to Dust Bowl images

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Tuesday, May 9, 2023 - 1:46pm
Updated: Tuesday, May 9, 2023 - 1:53pm

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Rihanna Empleo (2023)
"A Trip To The Grasslands" is a Hamilton High School student work of art being exhibited at the Chandler Museum until July 16, 2023.

A new exhibit by art students at Hamilton High School in Chandler has opened at the city’s museum.

The project is a direct response by students to an existing installation of documentary photography capturing Dust Bowl migrants on their journey from the central plains through Arizona and on to California.

“The exhibit tells the story of those who were leaving Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. and headed towards California in the 1930s. That route West took migrants through Chandler, Arizona,” according to Kristine Clark, community engagement specialist at Chandler Museum.   

She says one way student response pieces can be viewed is through the lens of soon-to-be voting citizens and their concerns as an upcoming generation.

The resulting student pieces in a variety of mediums arose out of Hamilton High School art teacher Karen Tabor’s class.

Clark said the work expresses the heartfelt, nuanced and diverse ways we define the concept of home. “For example, one of the artists made the connection between the Dust Bowl migrants being displaced from their farms and the Native Americans being similarly displaced by the government,” she said.

When asked about the importance of showcasing students’ work off school campus, Clark said, “When student art is displayed at school, it’s viewed as just that, ‘student art.’ It helps instruct or inform, like ‘oh, this is what an A looks like,’ or ‘here are the skills you learn when you take this course.’ Placed in a different context, like the Chandler Museum, the same work is viewed under a completely different lens and perhaps viewed as a work from a local budding artist.”

By the same token, exhibiting in the museum means the work isn’t just open to students’ peers and their parents on campus, but rather interpretation is open to the public, their background knowledge and their life experience they bring to the installation, according to Clark.

There will be a formal opening reception at the museum May 11 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Isaac Delacruz (2023)
"Native Pencil Chief" is one of the Hamilton High School student works being exhibited at the Chandler Museum until July 16, 2023.

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