Highlands’ art program makes an impact: art is everywhere

     Walking into the front of Highlands High School, students and teachers have a magnificent view of meaningful sculptures, paintings, and photographs. Each artifact has been created by the many talented students enrolled in the art program.

     Art is everywhere, in the halls and classrooms, around town, homes. But most importantly inside us. Every student is a walking

image of art. Creating art is about passion, mindfulness, and learning. Art comes from the soul. Every time you look at a piece of art, you are staring into the soul of another person. 

     At Highlands, there has always been an art program. Art Teachers Andrew Eckerle and Kris Donnelly have worked together to create a program that inspires students to work hard, think creatively, and express themselves. The art program offers many types of art classes. As students progress through the classes it becomes more vigorous but also more individual. Some of the more popular classes include sculpting, photography, and design. 

     According to Donnelly, the students are encouraged to join clubs and enroll in classes they are interested in.

     “The program is very open-ended, students have an opportunity to explore what they like through the artwork.” 

     Some students aren’t into getting dirty, they don’t like painting but they are interested in technology, so they might take the photo classes.

     Since 2010, Mr. Eckerle has transformed the art program into what it is today. He is known for his love for running, playing music, camping and bowling. Eckerle is a big lover of pizza but he hates Italian food. He also loves concerts and live music. His passion for music plays a huge role in what inspires him to create. Over the years, he has made drastic changes to the program. These changes have opened up the program immensely. Now, there are more students enrolled in art classes and they have the freedom to think creatively and work on their ideas every day. The program isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as all programs have their struggles. 

     Highlands has great facilities and support from administrators, and according to Eckerle, being able to utilize these things is what makes the program so remarkable. 

     “One of the hurdles that we face is getting the students to feel comfortable. Being able to solve problems using  creativity is something that we try to push.” 

     Donnelly, another one of our highly pronounced artists, finds inspiration by being in nature. Nature in art can take many visual forms, from photorealism to abstraction. Art can mimic nature, by seeking to visually replicate objects as they appear in real life, these abstract paintings can also take their visual cue from actual forms in nature. 

     “I think beyond my inspiration for my artwork, when I see people working hard that is incredibly inspiring. The Cincinnati art community is very inspiring.” 

     Not only does nature play an important role in her artwork, but her students also have a big impact on what she creates. Art is one of those things that does not have a black and white answer. Art is defined by the artist, and everyone can be an artist. In classes, kids are learning how to communicate visually and when they have to speak about what they are working on. 

     This year, Eckerle and Donnelly hope to stay in person and bring back some of the things that COVID-19 has since taken from the program. Being able to work on projects in person for the first last year greatly grew the program. Bringing back studio nights and a lot more visual arts is a big goal for Mr. Eckerle this year. 

     Both teachers have contributed to the growth of the program tremendously, and according to Donnelly, they are thankful for all the students’ hard work through the years. 

    “Through visual material, it’s a wonderful opportunity for students to explore their interests, hobbies, and things that relate to them personally. Art can be a mirror of what you’re thinking about in life. It’s also very therapeutic, it’s a nice break in the day where we are solving problems and working hard but not with technology.”