Art classes, clubs provide unique experiences for students

Students in Scott Sahagian’s art classes at Lynden High School may work in pastels one day, watercolors another and then charcoal the next. It all comes as part of his plan to create singular experiences for the students, opportunities to explore the world of art in ways they hadn’t before.

“My idea is that I love to expose kids to a variety of different mediums,” Sahagian says. “I think the variety has been fun and it has been neat to see the responses from kids. Maybe they didn’t like one medium, but they had fun exploring and at least had a cool experience.” 

From Cindy Bell’s art classes at Lynden Middle School to the offerings at LHS, art provides fresh experiences for students. “I don’t expect all students to walk out thinking art is the best thing ever,” Sahagian says, but I want them to walk out being successful and having fun figuring this all out.” 

That exploration comes in many forms at the high school. Sahagian, along with part-time teacher Ben Ball, teach art and advanced art in the 2D room that puts a focus on drawing and painting. Sahagian also teaches ceramics and advanced ceramics in the 3D room that gives students the liberty to explore with clay, forms and texture. 

With the relatively new eight-period-per-semester schedule, LHS students have greater opportunity to explore electives, including art. Whereas art was almost exclusively available to juniors and seniors in the old format, now LHS freshman have the opportunity to engage in art. For those students who are really interested, they can retake the advanced classes multiple times. When that happens, students expand their knowledge and take the basics they learned in the opening class and the techniques and compositions in the advanced courses to a new level. Sahagian says he tries to explore each student’s interests and push them to enter contests or create portfolios for college. “Let’s go crazy,” he says, “there are always a million other things you can do. Let’s branch out and take all the basic stuff to another level. It is about the experience and the relationships.” 

That freedom Sahagian breeds into the art classes is something he appreciates, both about the school and art itself. He remembers coming from an artistic family and in high school taking art classes that only allowed him to work with a basic pencil. “I was just bored,” he says. Instead his classes focus on coming up with something fun and interesting that students can enjoy, all while learning techniques, styles and compositions. 

The cooperation between the middle school and high school has proven exceptional. Bell has built a robust art following at the middle school and her popular art club gives students an extra avenue to explore interests. Sahagian says he appreciates how middle school students come into art at the high school with such a strong foundational knowledge. “When I talk about contour lines or perspective, they have already talked about that at the middle school,” he says. “Cindy has been great.” 

The community has proven exceptionally supportive too, whether the local Rotary group, Maberry Farms or the Jansen Art Center. Recently a kiln gave out and community support had the expensive fix taken care of almost immediately. “We love the community support,” Sahagian says. “We have appreciated that over the years.” 

From art club at the middle school to the variety of opportunities for high schoolers to explore art through advanced classes or other campus interests — the Lynden Performing Arts program, for example, has students designing and painting all its own sets — art opportunity has its own life throughout Lynden. It all starts with classes and builds from experiences.