Stairway to exposure

LHS students featured in first Watkins Museum teen photo exhibit

If Helen Krische Dee has her way, photo exhibitions produced by high school and junior high school students will be a fixture in the stairway gallery at Watkins Community Museum of History.

Eighteen Lawrence High School students from Angelia Perkins' advanced photo classes launched their exhibition with a reception on Monday at the museum, 1047 Mass. The display, featuring various photo techniques, will be on view through Feb. 15.

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Richard Gwin/Journal-World Photo

Mick Cottin, 17, a senior at Lawrence High School, holds a Polaroid 669 print titled "Hand on Car." The photograph is part of a teen photo exhibit at the Watkins Community Museum of History, where museum officials hope to use the staircase gallery to permanently showcase student photography.

"The inspiration for this photo exhibit came from the desire to attract a wide spectrum of the local population into the Watkins museum," said Krische Dee, museum specialist and coordinator of the exhibition. "I wanted to focus on the youth of the area, and so I thought it would be a great idea to fill the empty hooks leading up the stairwell with photos from high school and junior high students."

Lawrence High School students display their photos at other venues, such as the Lawrence Arts Center and Lawrence Public Library. However, those exhibitions aren't as elaborate as the one at Watkins, Perkins said.

"We never really have a place where it's this formal, where they're framed and hanging in a formal setting," Perkins said. "The students also had to do their own framing. When you get into framing, taking dimensions of frames and figuring that out is completely different for the kids. I would like to have more framed exhibitions throughout the community."

In addition to the gallery setting, Perkins said the students embraced the time allotted for the exhibit. Most exhibits for high school photographers last a couple of weeks.

"To be able to have that big block of time for an exhibition is pretty exciting," Perkins said of the eight-week show. "I always try to encourage the students to go find venues throughout Lawrence to show their own stuff, whether it's Pizza Shuttle or coffee shops downtown, where they can just have a one-person show and learn to do all their own professional labeling, produce an artist statement."

The LHS students appreciated the opportunity to display their photographs at Watkins.

"It's the most professional one I've been in," said LHS senior Mick Cottin, who helped hang the exhibit. "I hadn't been to Watkins since I was very young. I think it's a good way to get people to come to the museum."

Lawrence High senior Brooke Goodin was flattered the museum requested photographs produced by students.

"I think it was cool that they actually asked us to do it," Goodin said. "They could have probably gotten KU students to put their stuff here. They came to the high school and wanted their contributions."

Goodin's contribution to the exhibit was "Dagon," a black-and-white close-up of her wide-eyed little sister, Lacey.

"I shined a really bright light in her face," Goodin said of the photo. "She was like, 'I can't see.' I said, 'OK, on the count of three, open your eyes as wide as you can.' It was supposed to be pretty."

Rhiana Huff, Lawrence High senior, said seeing her photo and her classmates' photos in an exhibition inspired her.

"They make you want to do more high-quality work, so you can keep getting in the shows," Huff said.

Krische Dee said she planned to display photos from other high schools and junior high schools next year.

"Although exhibit schedules have not been worked out with the other schools, I hope to have enough schools participate to accommodate continuous year-round exhibits," Krische Dee said. "It is a great way to show the work of the students and express the museum's interest in fostering community involvement."

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