Berkeley High Students Examine Environmental Issues Through Art at Brower Center Exhibition

Anyone seeking reassurance about today’s teens – particularly about Berkeley High students’ values, passion for understanding, and artistic creativity – may find much to celebrate in the current exhibit at the David Brower Center.

The “Art/Act: Youth” exhibition features exceptional BHS student art inspired by environmental issues, developed through the students’ extended immersion into research on environmental themes and the thorny challenge of artistic expression that effectively captures an important message or idea.

The showcase of paintings and sculptural works is accompanied by a short video about an innovative Advanced Studio Art class at Berkeley High. The class is taught by the show’s curator, Kimberley D’Adamo Green, the chair of the BHS art department.

The class is guided by an arts-based research curriculum developed over nine years by Ms. D’Adamo Green and her students, with significant influence from the work of San Francisco State Art Professor Emerita and noted author Julia Marshall. It focuses on how large, interdisciplinary topics can be explored deeply through the lens of art, as Ms. D’Adamo Green explains in the video.

​”Just Borrowing a Little,” acrylic, by Amelia Smith

“The students have had a huge say in the design of the curriculum,” she said. “Every lesson has been reviewed by students who give feedback on what works for them and what needs improvement or removal. We study metacognition and learning theory, and students spend a lot of time reflecting on their own learning processes as a way to improve as artists. Many teachers from other disciplines in BHS help with the class, supporting students in their subject-specific research, while I help with art techniques and developing their voice as artists. It is a team effort. ”

The depth of the students’ explorations is reflected in one of the exhibits: “Handmade Research Workbook,” by Maria Fong, is a richly illustrated and detailed collection of drawings, diagrams and hand-written summaries. Maria’s book is an example of how a student’s art and thinking develop throughout the year.

“Handmade Research Workbook” by Maria Fong

The idea for the exhibition began last year when the Brower Center’s Executive Director, Laurie Rich, met Ms. D’Adamo Green at a BHS interdisciplinary arts show. Since many of the works had an environmental focus, Rich said she saw an opportunity for collaboration with the Center, located just two blocks away from the high school. (The Center is named after David Brower, a pioneer of the modern environmental movement.) The students and Ms. D’Adamo Green were excited by the prospect, which soon materialized into a pop-up exhibit that preceded the current full-fledged exhibition.

The exhibition “provides us with a dedicated way to connect to younger people,” Rich said. “It is through inspiring and supporting youth, and giving them opportunities to learn and succeed, that we endeavor to build long-lasting relationships that will extend far beyond the Brower Center’s walls. We want to have a significant impact on the lives that are changing the world.”

The world beyond the Center’s walls has already taken notice, as illustrated by a recent East Bay Times article on the show, “Exhibition of works by Berkeley High School students is at crossroads of environmentalism and art.”

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