A glossy stack of ceramic pancakes. A vibrant goldfish on a large canvas. A color photo of two young skaters reflected in a side-view mirror. 

Samohi artists have been refining their images of the world throughout the pandemic, but Thursday evening was the first time many of them were able to put their hard work on display.

Joined by friends, parents and school community members, Samohi’s Roberts Art Gallery (in its new home, the former textbook room) bustled with activity around dozens of pieces of art including ceramics, photography, drawings, acrylic paintings, textiles and more.

“To be able to show your art to people in person is a remarkable event,” 12th grade painter Meira Tuller later shared in an email with the Daily Press. “It is one thing to see a piece digitally, yet you can’t exactly reach it with your full vision as you can see it right in front of your face. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity that I could partake in, and hope in the future to have more art shows at the University I plan to attend.”

Photography teacher and art department chair Martin Ledford estimated a couple hundred people attended the gallery opening on Thursday, May 12, to show support for the young artists and see the work they created during the school year. The celebratory in-person show left an impression on the young creators, many of whom hadn’t been able to show their pieces in person for more than two years — if ever.

Junior Alyssa Cirelli, a digital painter, said she has spent the past year navigating a new digital medium in her AP art class. Both she and another junior, Colette Zighelboim, said it had been a year of creative growth.

“I’ve mainly been focusing on developing my technical skills but now I’m trying to stylize my work and express myself artistically, which I think I’ve started to do, as with works like those at the art show with which I hope to demonstrate growth,” Cirelli wrote in a message to the Daily Press following the opening. 

“It’s a stark difference from being online — that’s for sure,” Zighelboim said of the gallery show. She later added that she really appreciated being able to push herself individually over the course of the last school year, while also enjoying a collaborative atmosphere in her art classes.

“I think that, as artists, it’s important to encourage each other and to make each other feel supported and appreciated,” Zighelboim said. “It is not a competitive environment — it’s a loving and supportive one. And I think that is really crucial to having these shows, to have that element to it.”

Other students agreed.

“Art is super interactive, so to experience this art show in person and watch people connect to different pieces was so ethereal,” 12th grade painter and printer River Weill shared. “Like, ‘Ahh you want to look at my work!’ A lot of my friends are in the art program and it was nice to see them getting attention for their work as well.”

Cirelli described the transition back to in-person events as a “bumpy ride,” but said being able to experience things like the gallery opening after being apart for so long made her “value those moments all the more.”

The two-hour opening also featured refreshments furnished by ceramics teacher (and track coach) Tania Fischer, who said that as a teacher it was really gratifying to see her students get excited about showing their sculptures. 

Students were also happy to share their work, not only with fellow students but their teachers as well.

“It was really special to have an in person opening instead of a digital art event. It was nice to actually interact with the people who had work up and ask them questions,” Matthew Alas, a 12th grade photographer, said in a message to the Daily Press following the show. “Art always looks good when it’s physical and right in front of you. It was also refreshing to see old art teachers I had in the past who taught me a lot and very nice to show them the work I’m doing right now.” 

Alas was also able to share the afternoon with his older brother, who had also been an art student at Samohi, and with older family friends.

“It was definitely a full circle moment because when they were in high school I used to go to their art shows and it was very special to have them see something I made,” Alas shared. “It was also crazy because the school in general has changed so much since they graduated and they were eager to check everything out like the new building.” 

Artwork will be on display at the new Roberts Art Gallery on the Samohi campus through the end of May.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Martin Ledford’s name and misstated Alyssa Cirelli’s artistic medium. It has been updated with corrections.