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Workshops offer high school students opportunity to be 'Artists Next Door'

March 05, 2014

Shayna Skokan, a sophomore at East High School in Sioux City, constructs components for her team's model.
North High School sophomore Deja Merritt sculpts figures for her team's maze concept.
Bishop Heelan senior Joe Barkley sketches ideas for his team's model.
Final group presentation of team models/intervention ideas at the end of the first workshop at ISU Design West.


AMES, Iowa — "Within a community, it is often the artists who call upon others to dream. With those dreams comes the possibility of real change."

In "The Artists Next Door"—a series of workshops offered this spring—artist and Iowa State University faculty member Jennifer Drinkwater invites high school students in the Sioux City area to dream and discover what it means to be an active "artist citizen" in their community.

"We will look into the history and the current climate of the city as avenues and inspiration to create public-minded art projects," said Drinkwater, a senior lecturer in integrated studio arts in the ISU College of Design.

Integrated visual arts graduate student Rahele Jomepour, Mashhad, Iran, and recent studio arts graduate Arty Vongphakdy, Sioux City, are assisting Drinkwater with the workshops at ISU Design West, 1014 ½ Design Place, in downtown Sioux City. The first, on Feb. 22, involved seven participants from three high schools—North, East and Bishop Heelan—and all four grades, ninth through 12th.

"The students were fantastic, really engaged and enthusiastic," Drinkwater said.

The group divided into two teams, and each team developed a public art "intervention" for a site in Sioux City. They then did drawings and built small models of their ideas.

One team designed an interactive "maze" for downtown that would be geared toward high school students, Drinkwater said, while the other team designed two public sculptures that would stand in the Missouri River near the bridge connecting South Sioux City, Neb., with Sioux City.

"The sculptures are figurative and suggest unity and connection between ethnically diverse areas," Drinkwater said.

While students can participate in any single workshop or in the entire series, each session is designed to build upon the prior one and those who complete more of them will enjoy a richer experience, she said.

"We try to make it feel like a lab rather than a class and provide the freedom to experiment, take risks and play," Drinkwater said. "It's an opportunity to develop skills and explore ways to engage as artists and designers in the community."

Remaining workshops will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, March 8, March 29, April 12 and April 19. Each session carries a nominal $10 fee to cover lunch and materials.

The March 8 workshop will include a visual narrative mapping project that investigates what Sioux City already offers. The March 29 and April 12 sessions will feature a two-part project in which students envision new possibilities, then create larger works to express those ideas as projected images, installations and structures housed at Design West or in other locations throughout the community.

On April 19, participants will complete projects from prior sessions, develop professional artist's statements about their work and prepare for a public exhibition and reception on April 26. That final celebration will include a series of artists' talks and discussions with the community.

Although the series is already under way, students can still sign up to participate. Contact Drinkwater, (515) 708-2825,, for more information and a registration form.

Jennifer Drinkwater, Integrated Studio Arts, (515) 708-2825,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,