Steamboat AP art students open virtual gallery |

Steamboat AP art students open virtual gallery

Lauren Ehrlich's "The Heart of the Mountain," 2019, 19.5 x 24.5, acrylic painting.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs High School’s Advanced Placement studio art and photography students are sharing their work in a gallery in which visitors may peruse pieces for as long as they please, at any hour of the day, never needing to worry about closing time.

Here, no one needs to worry about stepping into anyone else’s 6-foot bubble, speaking too loudly or accidentally knocking a painting off its nail. And if you get lost in the gallery’s endless, white hallways, you can simply exit by closing the window. 

The gallery is a virtual program by the German company Kunstmatrix, which creates digital, 3D-simulated galleries which users can stroll through the exhibition as part of a guided tour or independently at their own pace, viewing any piece from any angle. Users may zoom in closer to a piece to examine it closely or back up to see a piece among the works hanging on the “walls” around it. 

The virtual exhibition is the replacement for the AP students’ yearly in-person show, which had been scheduled to take place at Gallery 89 until COVID-19 made that plan impossible.

“(The virtual gallery) is a pretty good compromise of what we could do, and I think (the kids) recognize that, even though they’re sad about the festivities that didn’t happen,” said AP studio art teacher Lisa Derning. Derning and AP photography teacher Megan Westerkamp worked together to curate uploaded images of their students’ works, titles, information and music for the gallery’s June 3 opening.

“I know a lot of the kids got a little disheartened because they weren’t going to be showing in person and didn’t really know what to expect from (an online gallery),” Westerkamp said, “but I’ve had a lot of positive responses. The kids I’ve heard from were, I think, pretty stoked.” 

Each student has several pieces displayed in the gallery, which represent a larger body of work for each student’s AP portfolio, submitted to the College Board for a grade and, potentially, college credit. In these bodies of work, students explored one “big idea,” or one inquiry-based question. In these works, students kept four main practices in mind — investigation, practice, experimentation and revision — growing and developing from one piece to the next. Some series were more personal; some were observational; some were narrative. The pieces spanned the gamut from paintings to multi-media works to photography.

“Our students are just so talented artistically and cognitively. Their thought process behind the art is at a really high level,” Derning said. “The diversity of the work is all that student’s highest ability at that point in time. Only they could do it that way.”

Due to school closures caused by COVID-19, College Board, which oversees AP classes across the country, modified portfolio requirements: instead of five selected studio art works, this year’s students were required to submit three; instead of 15 digital images documenting works of art, design and process, this year’s students were required to submit 10.

But the modified requirements didn’t necessarily lead to modified creativity or learning. 

Kirra Kusy’s “Lucky,” 2019, 36 x 24 inch, multi media: oil pastel, acrylic, paint marker on canvas

Senior Kirra Kusy has four pieces from AP studio art displayed in the gallery. One, called “Lucky,” she’d completed before the high school closed in March; the other three were done at home.

“The three I did over quarantine are very different than the pieces I did before,” she reflected. “They’re more free-flowing and expressionistic. I think that might be because over the past couple months, I’ve realized it’s way better to be easy-going and go with the flow, and I think that’s definitely reflected in the three most recent pieces, for sure.” 

Kusy noted that the class, composed of juniors and seniors, continued connecting throughout their time at home. 

Maecey Crocker’s “Illusion,” 2020, 36 x 24 x 1.3 inches, multi media: Conte’, oil pastel and acrylic on stretched canvas

“We inspire one another, even from a distance,” she said. “In class calls, we share artwork, and we’re still helping each other out, giving each other suggestions and compliments. There’s unity within it all.” 

“They’ve really come together and fed off each other,” Derning said. “You can see the influence from one piece to another. They’re an awesome group of kids.” 

Per the AP curriculum which explores the business of art, the pieces in the virtual gallery are for sale. Shifting sales onto the virtual platform and figuring out correspondence and shipping was a tricky aspect of the project, according to Derning. But safe parameters were established and pieces have been selling. 

The virtual gallery will be open and available for viewing until June 28. Visit the gallery at:

Leilani Ward’s “Exotic Joe,” 2020, 20 x 16 inch, acrylic paint on canvas.
Ryley Seibel’s “Primavera,” 2020, 18 x 14 inch, multi media: acrylic collage, color pencil, cardboard, string and ink on stretched canvas.

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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