The New Zone Gallery in downtown Eugene is home to a diverse community of local artists. But last month, it was also home to two high school students learning the ins and outs of art gallery work with the help of the arts community.
Seniors Sara Ashburn and Satysha Whitworth are high school interns for New Zone through the Academy of Arts and Academics internship program. They say they hope to expand their artistic horizons with the opportunity to work for a local art gallery. “Both of us put down that we wanted something art related, so we ended up grouped together,” Whitworth says.
The internship program provides high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to intern for local businesses around Eugene and Springfield. These internships last the entire month of January and replace classes with work experience.
At first, Ashburn and Whitworth spent their time cleaning the gallery itself, hanging artwork, filling nail holes in the walls from previous displays and scrubbing floors. “It was great, I felt like Cinderella!” Ashburn jokes.
Within the first week of working there, New Zone Gallery President Dianne Cunningham began filling the interns’ schedules and arranging meetings with the artists who are part of the New Zone Gallery community.
“The artists of New Zone have been wonderful in stepping up to give the students their time and resources, nurturing them in the particular medium each artist uses. Some artists have not worked much with younger folks,” Cunningham says. “I think perhaps the learning may have gone both ways at times.”
The students meet with artists in their homes and receive lessons about how to use the medium of the artist’s choice. When asked how these experiences have benefitted them academically and artistically, Ashburn says, “working with different artists every day helps me manage my time, since we only have a few hours with one before we have to go meet another. Making art within that time limit really challenges me in a fun way.”
Whitworth adds, “Artistically, I feel like I’m overly self critical and get hung up on details, but working with artists who just tell me to start working, just create and make something I love while also learning how to plan, has given me a lot of insight into how established artists treat their work.”
Cunningham says the experience with the interns was eye-opening. “They each created fabulous pieces with no guidance from me other than basic instructions. I was available to help but left them to come up with their own ideas and only made suggestions as to how to use the materials.”
Ashburn and Whitworth plan to give back to the artists who have spent their time working with them. While interning, the two students found that exposure was a gray area for most people, and that many artists weren’t sure how to market their art online.
“Social media is a crucial part of making money off your work, or receiving any recognition,” Ashworth says, “but a lot of artists feel uncomfortable posting work online. The biggest worry is that their artwork can be stolen.”
The two contacted Cunningham about putting together a social media workshop at the gallery to teach skills like adding watermarks on photos, using hashtags to organize art and, most important, by finding their preferred platform.
“I am hopeful to get a session scheduled with New Zone artists — and anyone else who might be interested — so the students can teach us about Instagram and other social media ideas many of us know little or nothing about. That would be a real contribution to the gallery,” Cunningham says.
Ashburn and Whitworth feel at home at the gallery. “New Zone Gallery has given us the first step into diving into the Eugene arts community, and I feel like I wasn’t even aware of it. It felt so natural, and I feel so comfortable meeting new people and working with them,” Ashburn says.
“They came to us outgoing, energetic young women, which has made working with them very easy,” Cunningham says. “Being an artist is simply doing art. Having the knowledge that they can do art, in many mediums, may well help them consider a more artistic approach to both a career and life.”
New Zone Gallery is hosting a one-night opening for Ashburn and Whitworth’s art 5:30 pm Friday, Feb. 2, during the February First Friday. New Zone is located at 220 W. 8th Avenue. This article was written by Eugene Weekly’s own A3 intern, Kyla Ramsey.