NEW ULM – A record number of River Bend Area Learning Center (ALC) students, with a record number of submissions, have been published in The Alchemist, an annual magazine of the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs (MAAP).
The magazine showcases artwork, poetry and short stories written by students.
The published artists and authors include: Jonathan Valdez (three art submissions, including one that made the cover); Travis Petersen (poetry); Devin Mahon (art); Shania Stanford (art); Samuel Hatlestad (poetry); Damon Einck (poetry); Steven DeGre (poetry); Katie Rehbein (poetry); Isaiah Cummings (poetry); and the World Literature class (poetry).
The theme of the magazine, as suggested by its name, reflects the idea of “transformation,” explained the students and their teacher, Dana Miller. It is intended, in part, to highlight works that reflect a positive change in the lives of the students.
The works are a deep reflection of students’ lives, noted Miller. “They pull down very deep” to create their art or poetry. Through their creations, some of young people rise above their circumstances, escape from the daily turmoil in their lives, said Miller.
Many of the students in alternative programs have been found to be particularly gifted in one area, noted Miller. The magazine gives them a chance to be successful at something, to really express and show what they are good at, their special talent.
The students, encouraged by Miller, started their participation in the project last fall, collecting their work as they went along, then submitting it in December. Miller received the magazine at her state professional conference earlier this month.
Selecting which pieces to submit happens in different ways, explained Miller. Sometimes a student would feel strongly about a piece of work and request that it be considered; another time a teacher would suggest what would make a good submission.
A committee at MAAP works on the magazine all year, said Miller. The program is in its 13th year, and Miller has been involved in helping submit student work for the past six. Three times of these six times, her students have “taken the cover.”
The program is open to students in grades 9-12.
Some of the work is done as part of project-based learning in school. This was the case, for example, with some poems, and also the riddle created collaboratively by the World Literature class. As part of studying riddles as an art form in Medieval times, the class created a riddle by taking student suggestions and melding them together. The finished “product” was successfully practiced before the entire school, and the listeners were able to decode the language. Encouraged by their success, the class decided to submit the riddle.
At other times, the students would bring in work they had independently completed at home, because of a special interest.
The winning cover entry, a black-and-white drawing by Jon Valdez, is an example of this approach.
“I drew whatever came to mind, just for fun,” said Valdez, when asked about the impetus behind creating his edgy, stylized, strongly individual drawings.
Valdez is hoping to further his talent through art education and convert it into a career.
Several students shared that they were both surprised and gratified to be published. “I was not expecting it. ” “It was pretty cool,” were typical reactions.
At the same time, as true artists, they declined to compare and contrast their creations.
“Everyone has meaning behind their own work,” said one of the artists, Shania Stanford, who did pieces on canvas, with permanent marker, and is also hoping for a career in art.