Port Macquarie High School celebrates a major milestone, with its 50th anniversary in April this year. Kickstarting the celebrations early is a special art exhibition at the Glasshouse from February 25, featuring work from past students of the school. Exhibition organisers, Karen Richards and Jim Matsinos, are very excited at the diversity of the pieces on display.
Hi Karen and Jim. What’s your involvement with the exhibition?
Karen: I’m an art teacher at Port Macquarie High School – this is my third year there now. The opportunity came up to have an exhibition as part of the 50th anniversary of the school, and I jumped at the chance. I knew I could draw on the wealth of knowledge from people like Jim – who has been involved with the school for much longer than I have.
I put a proposal to the Glasshouse, which they accepted, and ever since we’ve been working together to find students of the school who have gone on to become practising artists.
Jim: I taught art at Port Macquarie High School from 1974 – 2005, so I’ve known quite a lot of students through that time. I’ve helped Karen by providing the names of people I’m still in contact with – and also provided a diverse range of artists, not just painters, but people who have gone on to work with different facets of the arts.
What type of artworks/artists are represented in the exhibition?
Karen: As a teacher, it’s so exciting to hear the success stories from former students – it’s fantastic! It’s going to be such an eclectic and diverse exhibition.
The exhibition consists of works by people who have studied at the school and who have gone on to study some form of creative arts and achieved excellence in their creative pursuits … people like Samantha Wills, who has gone on to do jewellery design and now lives in New York.
Karen Borger, a film maker who writes and directs films; she has actually supplied a film and some photographic stills of her work.
There are so many people who have gone on to have doors open for them and make names for themselves in their fields. Belinda Howden, an up and coming contemporary artist who has just returned from a residency in Iceland, will be exhibiting her work; Nancy Bevington, a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator has supplied some of her books; and local artist, Wendy Stokes, has supplied some beautiful artwork as well.
Jim: Wendy Stokes was among the first of my students to go on and make a name for herself. She became an acclaimed printer and now a painter. Wendy became the catalyst for other students who attended Port High to aspire for greater things in the artistic world.
We have works by George Hatsatouris – a very well known painter now based in Sydney, and Trevelyan Clay, who in 2011 was awarded the Maddocks Art Prize for an emerging young Australian artist, valued around $10,000 – which included a trip to the Venice Biennale. Trevelyan is a completely different category of artist – he’s part of a pretty off-the-wall band called ‘Bum Creek’, and his paintings are ‘left of field’ and are sought after by art collectors.
Then there’s Andrew Dennis, who’s an absolutely beautiful painter. Andrew started out as an architect, before moving into art. My daughter, Angie, has worked a lot with theatrical productions. The work on display will feature her involvement in the opening ceremony at the Sydney Olympics, The Creation of the Wandjina.
Kerry Kranitis, who is now pursuing and studying art, is typical of students who change and follow a passion in the arts.
Karen: The artworks range from works completed by students from the day the school opened to now. I have students I’ve taught in the past few years who have gone on to uni to study animation, with the dream of working on Pixar films or similar. Hopefully my students now can see what’s possible and what’s been achieved by other Port High students from the past.
It must have been a lot of work to put an exhibition of this calibre together. How big will the exhibition actually be?
Karen: It was! It’s been so exciting to contact all of these artists, but a huge effort to bring them together. There are 13 exhibiting artists, and we’ll take up the whole top floor at the Glasshouse.
The multimedia capabilities of the Glasshouse allow us to play films, as well as display books and jewellery pieces with the paintings. It is an eclectic display, but all the pieces come together to celebrate what the students from Port Macquarie High School have been able to go on and achieve in their careers.
Jim: There have been so many students who have gone on to achieve amazing things – some have become artists, art teachers, some went into advertising, photography, theatrical designers, event organisers – and it has been a big task to track a lot of them down.
What are the exhibition dates?
Jim: The works will be on display from 25 February to 25 April, with the official opening on April 13 at 5pm.
Karen: There will be a range of events happening from April 13 – April 15 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school, but more information about these events can be found at: www.portmac-h.schools.nsw.edu.au/info/index.html
Registrations are required for the dinner and other events on April 13 – 15. There’s also a Facebook Group called Port Macquarie High School 50th Anniversary.
What would you say to encourage people to get along to the exhibition?
Karen: The exhibition is a celebration of the artists who have hailed from our area and the role Port Macquarie High School played in their lives.
A lot of the artists who are in the exhibition still have family in Port. Many parents of these former students still live here, so there’s a huge connection with the local community.
A lot of people who go to visit the exhibition will most likely recognise a few names as the kids who used to play down the street! It’s amazing what these former students have achieved, and it’s a celebration for the school, but also for our local community.
Thanks Jim and Karen.
Interview by Jo Atkins.