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GISH Unveils Student Art Made Possible by Art Now Grant

Student graffiti portrait art on plexiglass lit by a neon purple light.

April 26th, 2024

An eclectic display of art took center stage at Grand Island Senior High (GISH) last night that was made possible, in part, by a statewide grant. 

Thanks to the Nebraska Department of Education, in partnership with the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, GISH was awarded $17,712.00 in grant funds designated for a unique art project.  The focus:  Empowering students of various artistic skills to create a one-of-a-kind expression across different media while helping students achieve state standards in the classroom. 

After submitting a proposal on behalf of the Fine Arts Department, GISH was granted the funding to pursue the innovative, student-led art project.  With grant funds in-hand and a vision in front of them, John Jacobs, GISH Band Teacher, Mike Lough, GISH Art Teacher, John “Bobby” Jacobs, GISH Orchestra Teacher, and Dr. Evan Lee, GIPS Fine Arts Coordinator, set the stage with a bold timeline in mind… completing the project in just four months. 

GISH graffiti portrait art lit by a neon yellow light and smoke machine.

The students took it from there in bringing to life a project showcasing visual, musical, and performance art all together. 

“The genesis of this whole endeavor was simple:  Art inspires in many different ways.” Dr. Lee shared,  “Bringing this idea to our student artisans gave them a rare opportunity to experience the creative process in a way they hadn’t before with new tools and resources.”

Since January, GISH art students conceived and created visual art utilizing spray paint storytelling on plexiglass.  The art students worked alongside technical theater students to build a creative lighting display to showcase the vibrant nature of the “graffiti portrait” artwork.  Along the way, band students composed and recorded original music to provide the soundtrack to the visual piece.  Putting it all together were theater students crafting original scripts that would perform alongside the musical and visual components making the performance whole.

They called it, “Inner Evocation”.

GISH Graffiti portrait art, close-up lit by neon yellow light

Making it all possible were grant funds which were used to purchase supplies and tools needed to bring the multimedia artistic expression to life.  The list of resources included plexiglass, spray paint, computers for music composition, a soprano saxophone, a haze machine, and two pairs of moving head theater lights. None of which were materials previously available to students; each of them designed to last for years for future GISH fine arts students to use. 

Overall, the grant project included the contributions of 93 of GISH Fine Arts students. 

The finished production was immersive in scope and scale as it was on full display at Thursday night's GISH Band Concert in front of a packed auditorium. 

GISH orchestra spring concert directed by John Jacobs

“Art is a means of expression and that is a powerful thing.” Dr. Lee continued, “We want to provide opportunities for our students to discover and sharpen new skills while finding confidence in expressing who they are and how they see the world. This project helped us accomplish just that.”

Through original art, musical compositions, lighting displays, and theatrical notes, the participating GISH Fine Arts students held the attention and emotion of hundreds of viewers, and that will be something they hold onto forever.