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Fostering Gifted Artists

A Wenona pilot program targets artistic exceptionalism.

While school-based gifted and talented programs abound, schemes to differentiate and develop high-potential artists are considerably rarer.

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Wenona’s new Visual Arts talent Development Program was launched during the recent winter school holidays, in response to the significant number of talented artists at the School. The pilot’s aim is to differentiate location and learning outcomes for artistic students, by giving them access to professional mentors in real-world situations and tasking them with producing real-world outcomes.

The first session was an exploration of the theme 'Decadence and Decay'. Fifteen students worked under the guidance of sought-after artist Amber Hearn, a recent finalist in the Glover Art Prize, Fishers Ghost Art Award and Blacktown City Art Prize, and Head of Department Visual Arts, Photography and Digital Media, Michele Brennan.

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Using a list of potential artistic provocations, the students concentrated their gaze on the visual contrasts of the art deco lines of Luna Park and the peeling industrial spaces of Cockatoo Island, searching for "a frisson, or a new way to engage with a sense of place", according to Ms Brennan. They wound up the day by discussing the comparisons they had experienced and generating detailed descriptions of their thoughts and ideas.

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The program will now continue throughout Term 3 in the form of weekly three-hour workshops. The girls’ artistic response to sites remains the focus, as they turn their attention to spaces within the School, engaging with and transforming them in innovative ways. The result will be an exhibition of individual large-scale works on show for the Wenona community at the end of the term.

It is hoped the program will continue in subsequent years, to extend the capabilities of more high-potential Wenona artists.