HBHS Educator's Art Chosen for Exhibition

A work titled "Resilient Grasp" by Har-Ber High School virtual arts teacher Betsy Allison was selected for inclusion in the 2023 National Art Education Association Member Exhibition.

"I'm honored. I lean on my art to act as a voice for my experiences and adoration. Being an artist who specializes in teaching art education is such a unique space to be in because of the relationships and attachments to students next to my art practices and the practices I teach in the classroom," Allison said. "When the pandemic happened, there were so many moving pieces with my students that it was hard to keep a grasp on everyone, where they were and if they were okay.

"Being selected for this national art show is such a testament to the artist's voice and the storytelling that can take place within the artwork," she continued. "I'm thankful to be an artist-art educator who is heard and seen through this piece."

The 9-inch-by-12-inch graphite on paper piece was one of 546 submissions for the exhibition, said Susie KimNAEA exhibitions and member services specialist. A jury panel of 12 artists and arts leaders selected 94 works for inclusion in the virtual exhibition.

'"Resilient Grasp" is a powerful, visual representation of the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of my students and my own," Allison said. "This artwork depicts distorted hands, symbolizing the challenges, uncertainties and hardships they have experienced during these unprecedented times. At the same time, the hand in the middle is trying to hold on and support them all. This hand symbolizes me."

The distorted hands represent the disorientation and disturbance caused by the pandemic, which disrupted students' everyday lives and pushed them into uncharted territories, she said. The contorted fingers reflect students' emotional turmoil, anxiety and isolation as they grappled with a rapidly changing reality.

"The choice of hands in this artwork is deliberate, as they are tools for creation and connection and convey a sense of touch, empathy and human connection," Allison said. "However, the distortion signifies limited, physical contact, causing a sense of distance and detachment among individuals."

Despite the difficulties portrayed in "Resilient Grasp," the piece communicates an underlying message of resilience and determination, she said. The hands are still depicted in a powerful, gripping manner, symbolizing the tenacity and willpower students demonstrated while facing immense adversity. The way they are supported also symbolizes the 'holding together" the teacher was trying to accomplish.

"Through this artwork, I aim to evoke empathy and understanding towards students' experiences during this trying period," Allison said of the COVID-19 pandemic. "By visually representing their struggles and resilience, I hope to shed light on our unique classroom family stories from this time, encouraging viewers to pause and reflect on the collective impact of the pandemic on our society."

"Resilient Grasp" is ultimately a testament to the strength and resilience of Allison's students, her love for them and a reminder that the human spirit has the power to endure and overcome, even in times of great hardship.

The virtual exhibition can be viewed from Dec. 4 to May 3 on the association's website.