One by one, high school students stepped forward to show an audience who they really are. Julien Johnson recited his poem “Thinking…Not Living,” about transcending limitations. Grace Greene sang her song “Untitled,” about overcoming doubt and fear. Rowan Suhre performed his movement piece “Walking in Heels,” about struggling for personal growth.
The students spoke their truth in a July 27 showcase for Imaging Self, a new summer program from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Elsewhere in the Education Building’s airy atrium, fellow classmates demonstrated printmaking techniques and displayed artwork they’d created during their transformative experience at UW–Madison.
Imaging Self is a three-week residential program in which high school students build their arts portfolios while earning college credit. They gain access to UW–Madison’s world-class facilities, working with faculty and practicing artists. The goal is to learn more about themselves through personal expression in visual art, dance, and theater, as well as making connections among various art forms.
New forms of expression
Johnson came to the program with experience in writing and music and was surprised by how much he liked visual art. He also appreciated the chance to focus intensely on self-expression for three weeks.
“I enjoyed the fact that I got to dive deep into conversations about who I want to be, which is something I don’t usually get to talk about,” says Johnson, a student at Milwaukee County’s Brown Deer High School. “The focus was on our own image of ourselves, and not how others want us to be.”
Greene is interested in theater but discovered a new way of expressing herself at UW–Madison’s internationally famous Glass Lab. She also made friends while learning that she could handle herself at a Big Ten college.
“I was looking for an experience beyond what I was getting in high school,” says Greene, from Fox Point, Wis. “I came out of it with a newfound understanding of what it’s like to live in a dorm and to be an arts student on a college campus.”
Imaging Self immersed students in a wide range of experiences. Along with their classes in visual art, dance, and theater, they engaged with visiting artists from creative writing, music, and other disciplines. They attended shows at the Overture Center for the Arts, the Chazen Museum of Art, University Theatre, and American Players Theatre, getting a behind-the-scenes peek at each venue. They also learned the secrets of composing a college application essay at the UW–Madison Writing Center. In the evenings, they enjoyed free time and activities planned by their resident advisers.
“There was so much going on, and it was so exciting for both the students and the instructors,” says director John Hitchcock, associate dean for the arts at the School of Education. “Imaging Self got students to think creatively outside their normal routine and to work collaboratively.”
Visual arts instructor Adriana Barrios enjoyed teaching screenprinting and glassmaking techniques to these open-minded young artists. One of her assignments asked them to choose a poem from their creative-writing sessions and incorporate it into a print.
“We didn’t give them too many restrictions when it came to their creative vision,” says Barrios. “We gave them conceptual ideas to move forward with, and they went off on their own paths.”
For more information on Imaging Self or to apply, see the program webpage.