The Voice of Wakefield High School

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The Voice of Wakefield High School

The Howler

The Voice of Wakefield High School

The Howler

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From the stage to the museum: How Wake Forest’s tech students represent their community through artwork

Nic Cazin
Junior Lee Thompson arrives at the Gifts of Gold event, eager to find their group’s artwork at the museum. Gifts of Gold is a fantastic opportunity for Wake County students to have their art go into the NC Museum of Art.

For their bipoc production “Amplify,” Wake Forest High School’s technical theater students crafted some incredible artwork, and on April 4, their work was showcased at the Gifts of Gold event at the North Carolina Museum of Art. This event featured an appreciation for the tech students and brought the Wake County community together.

Belva Parker has been the Arts Program Director at the North Carolina Museum of Art for several years, with this year marking her eleventh time coordinating Gifts of Gold. This is an artwork section of the Pieces of Gold event, in which artwork from schools across the county are showcased in a section of the museum. This display, which is open until April 7 and has a reception on April 4, is located on level B of the East Building and is an excellent space for artists all over Raleigh and Wake County to showcase their work, with a wide range of styles from painting to ceramics on display. 

“The purpose is to encourage young people to explore art, to share it with each other, and to realize that they’re capable of different types of art,” Parker said. “It is also to give young talent a chance to come out and do things together and to be able to see what their peers are doing.”

The artwork that Wake Forest will feature at the NC Museum of Art is a resin panel, one of the ten created for their “Amplify” show performed at their school this past February. The resin panels, which depict different country’s flags and cultures, were created in an effort to show the diversity of the cast and the community at-large, representing all sorts of countries from Africa, eastern Asia, South America, and more. Lee Thompson, a junior at Wake Forest, was the head designer for this project. 

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“It’s important [to showcase the work] because we have a lot of diversity in the Wake Forest and Raleigh area,” Thompson said. “It’s really important for [these] people to feel represented.”

Lee Thompson and senior Ollie Friesen explain the vision and passion behind their project. As they discuss their artwork, they are able to further engage themselves with the Wake County community. (Nic Cazin)

While the representation of cultural diversity was a very large piece of this project, it is important to keep in mind that it wasn’t just art, but was also essential to the show as well. Ollie Friesen, a senior at Wake Forest and the shop lead of props was one of the students working alongside Thompson to create this project and considers the fact that the artwork is a crucial prop in understanding the true spectacle of the piece. 

“It’s really cool that [the artwork] is coming from our technical theater program,” Friesen said. “We’ve had visual arts students enter stuff in this art show before, but as a technical theater program, we’ve never had the opportunity to put any of our work in. I think it’s really impressive that we were able to make something that is both a valuable set piece and prop and works well on stage but also doubles as a piece of visual art that can be a sculpture in an art show.”

Tim Domack is the tech director at Wake Forest and played a large role in both creating the panels and getting the artwork into the museum. Upon completion of the project, he had to complete an application from the Wake County arts program and even drove down the huge sculpture to the museum himself. But, Domack was happy to do it for his students. 

“I’m super proud of not just what my students have done but what all the Wake County students have done,” Domack said. “I think that Gifts of Gold is a great opportunity for [us] to be able to show [our] work in a professional art museum.”

I think it’s really impressive that we were able to make something that is both a valuable set piece and prop and works well on stage but also doubles as a piece of visual art that can be a sculpture in an art show.

— Friesen

Not only do individual students benefit from Gifts of Gold, but also entire schools. By having this showcase, art programs across the county – including visual arts, tech theater, and more – can show their work and convey how crucial they are to the school. 

“The cool thing about Gifts of Gold is, since schools’ art programs across the country are being taken away and treated less, [we can show] the high-quality stuff the programs in our schools can make,” Friesen said. “It’s a good way to show the community and the leaders that we can make really cool things with these programs and that they are valuable.”

After the COVID pandemic, it took some time for the NC Museum of Art to get Gifts of Gold back up and running. Parker and all of the tech students at Wake Forest hope that this year’s display will help make the communities of Raleigh and Wake County more closely interconnected. 

“Getting this moving again has really just brought everybody together, and there’s no better way to come together than over art,” Parker said. “Seeing the young people, their friends, their parents, their grandparents and their teachers altogether, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

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