Olentangy Valley News

Exhibit shows high school culture through camera lens

By ANDREW KING
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For Olentangy Liberty High School art teacher Grant Gilsdorf and his art class, Friday, Dec. 13, marks the culmination of a project that took the class where neither the students nor the teacher expected.

The class's project, "Uncovering the Layers," is a commentary on high school life, told through the photography of student artists.

The exhibition will open with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Powell branch of the Delaware County District Library, 460 S. Liberty St. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided.

The photos will be on display through Jan. 17 at the library.

For the project, four groups of students tackled a series of questions relevant to high school life: How do you define yourself? What do you value most in life? What makes you smile? What would you do if fear didn't limit you?

Gilsdorf said the project began with his challenge to students to focus on the school and look at some "cracks or issues" they saw in the high school culture.

He said he was surprised to see how students ran with the project.

"I had never seen students this fired up and into it," he said. "They really felt the power of this project. At first, I think they were scared they wouldn't get enough other students to participate."

But when word of the project started traveling through the school, Gilsdorf said, students had no problems getting classmates to volunteer to be photographed.

"In this generation, without a lot of face-to-face conversation, it was important for them to be able to talk to each other," Gilsdorf said, noting that the interaction among students was key.

Gilsdorf said one of the most-important lessons of the project is that "everything is gray."

"There is no right or wrong, no cool or uncool. There's just people," he said. "All these people have their own set of rules and there's no one way to do it. It ended up being a celebration instead of a damnation, in a lot of ways."

Gilsdorf said while students asked their classmates the questions, they often realized they are more similar than they thought.

"It's easy to say that this guy's a jock and this is how he is, and this guy's an art freak and that's how he is," Gilsdorf said. "But instead, the project became about studying people and understanding."

As the project concludes, Gilsdorf said he was envious of the opportunity the students had and how well they ran with the idea.

"I wish I would have had their maturity and knowledge when I was in high school and I could go back and have this opportunity and this experience," he said.

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