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Artistic journeys

Cassie Pence
Preston Utley/Vail DailyThe Vail Mountain middle-schoolers will perform "Magical Land of Oz" Saturday at 5 p.m.
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VAIL – Lights will dim and curtains will raise at the Vail Mountain middle school musical tonight, but the director fidgeting anxiously backstage won’t be a teacher, but a fellow student.Lia Zneimer chose to direct the students’ musical, “Magical Land of Oz,” for her senior project. Zneimer said that since there hadn’t been a middle school musical in several years, she chose directing in hopes her project would establish an ongoing program.”I learned the most from re-entering this world of middle school drama, which is both theatrical and emotional,” Zneimer said. “Just learning how these kids work, it was the most challenging part, but the most rewarding.”For about the last three months of school, VMS seniors had the choice of continuing with classes or completing a project, which could be science related, a research paper or work with an art form.

No matter the subject, the projects required a significant amount of work. A creative senior project requires the student to generate an extensive portfolio and conduct a formal presentation. Students have two faculty advisors and an outside advisor – like a working artist – to help them with the project.Zneimer did everything herself, from the directing to choreography to the technical aspects of set and costume design. It’s all documented in a 26-page bound book, which she said hardly does justice to all the hours she spent on the project. “It’s a lot harder then it looks,” said Zneimer, who has starred in many VMS performances. “As much as I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be a friend. It was a tough balance.”Zneimer said she’s a bit nervous about the performance tonight because it reflects the work she’s done all trimester.”But I have faith in the kids that it’s going to be a good show,” she said.

‘To Know A Stranger: Visions And Sounds Of A Reality Forgotten’Madelyn Sullivan has been working at a soup kitchen in Denver for the last four years. She wanted to share the experience of the people she met there with the Vail Valley, a place she said that is often sheltered from poverty. For her project, she shot black and white photographs of the people and then paired them with audio clips of personal interviews to create the performance piece titled “To Know A Stranger: Visions And Sounds Of A Reality Forgotten.””It’s not only the reality of the soup kitchen, but also the reality of our lives and how fragile they are,” Sullivan said. “No matter what college you go to or job you take, you can end up down and out at some point, too.”

There were uncomfortable moments during her time at the soup kitchen, Sullivan admitted, because many of the people she met knew she was from Vail. They were begrudging of the fact, telling her she must have it pretty good or asking her what kind of car she drives.”You think that there’s nothing we have in common,” she said. “But then you find one thing in common with that person, and when that happens, your friendship reaches a whole new level.”‘The Creations of Destruction: The Effects of Our Daily Lives’Looking through photographs of past backpacking and kayaking trips, Katie Wear was inspired to build her senior project around the environment. She decided to focus on oil spills, global warming and air pollution. She created an abstract art exhibit using mixed media to depict these three problems. Her artwork is paired with a report she wrote on how people can improve the environment with daily-life changes.

“I wanted to create environmental awareness through my paintings,” Wear said. “For the most part, our environment is so healthy we don’t see oil spills – for obvious reasons – or air pollution, unless you drive to Denver. People don’t think about it here because it’s not directly affecting them.”One of her pieces is “Trapped,” a three-dimensional work featuring a clay bird covered in tar and feathers. In the background is a real picture of a seal covered in oil.”It was a spontaneous piece,” she said. “Seeing a bird covered in oil brings back memories from the Exxon oil spill.”Other works include an ink drawing of a factory spewing smoke, an oil painting of global warming and collage pieces, some using found objects.”The collage effect evokes more emotion,” she said. “They have to think about what they’re seeing instead of having the picture right in front of them.”

In addition to learning facts about the environment, Wear developed as an artist and became more confident, she said.”Before I started, I was confused as to what exactly art is,” Wear said. “I learned I can create anything – collage art, drawings, oil paintings. I developed my own style. I learned about the mediums, how they work and what I like and dislike.”All three senior projects will be presented in a public forum. Zneimer’s musical will take place tonight at 5 at the Vail Mountain School theater, and Sullivan and Wear have teamed up for a duel art exhibit at SOKE Fine Art Gallery in Minturn Monday at 5:30 p.m. Their exhibits will hang for the rest of the week.

All three senior projects will be presented in a public forum. Zneimer’s musical will take place tonight at 5 at the Vail Mountain School theater, and Sullivan and Wear have teamed up for a duel art exhibit at SOKE Fine Art Gallery in Minturn Monday at 5:30 p.m. Their exhibits will hang for the rest of the week.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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