Artist’s passion is Plan A

 

Our parents encourage us to "follow our dreams" when we are little because that is what small children want to hear. Yet when those dreams end up being studying art in college, an unfortunate number of those same parents renege on their support. "There are no jobs for art students" or "You will end up working at Starbucks" might be the typical warnings put out by family members.

But not for Mara and Charles Kuester, the parents of Katie Kuester, who graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in May and will be attending Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in the fall.

"Art school isn't exactly a popular thing," says Kuester. "Everyone tries to talk you out of going to art school. My parents never did, but my grandparents definitely tried."

H-F graduate Katie Kuester 
poses with the karve boat, 
a sculpture project she helped 
build, in the background. 

(Photo by Jessica Gonzalez/
HF Chronicle)

The number of H-F students who chose to attend some form of art school is increasing every year, estimates Kuester, saying that three or four of the six AP Art Studio students will be attending art school in the fall, up from the maybe two last year.

After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Kuester pictures herself going on for a Master of Art Education. "I don’t have a backup plan," she insists. "My reasoning: There’s no reason for a Plan B because it takes away from Plan A. If I need a Plan B, I’ll figure it out. I’m not worried about that right now, I’ll worry if that comes. If you were to anticipate failure, you’re more likely to fail."

Kuester has been involved in the art department at H-F since her freshman year, taking one or another art class all four years. During each of her four years, the art students have worked on one major project per year which is now displayed around H-F. This year's project was the floating sculpture in the bio-pond.

If you wander over to the bio-pond in between North and South building on the H-F campus, you might notice something surprising: a giant paper boat floating in the center. Of course the boat is not actually folded paper, but the design looks like something you made when you were a kid.

The sculpture, like the previous projects, is a year-long endeavor for H-F art students. Once Kuester and the team ranging from freshmen to seniors decided they wanted something in the bio-pond, they started working on the logistics, including presenting the idea to the school board members and receiving permission.

The team researched and budgeted the project, and finally ended up with an idea that could be finished within the school year.

"We used PVC pipe, fiberglass, and marine coating," explained Kuester. "And the last touch was glow-in-the-dark paint." She says that for a certain amount of time after sundown, the boat should glow, depending on how much it was able to "charge" during the day.

Kuester has won over $3,000 worth of scholarship prizes based on her art, including $200 for an IHSA poster competition. However, individual funding is not what she is most concerned about. 

High school art departments across the country are having funding slashed.

Kuester says she and the other H-F students are lucky because the school board is relatively supportive.

"They support us more than other schools but we don't have nearly as much funding as we need," she said. "There's a lot of things we want to do but don't have the funding for."

Homewood-Flossmoor strives to raise the bar in all areas, as can be seen with renovations to not only the athletic facility, but the Viking Television studio. Kuester says the support for the art department is "sufficient." "But I wish it was above and beyond because the standards are higher at H-F," she added.

Despite her concerns, Kuester is grateful. "I owe a lot of my success and my achievements to the art program at H-F," she said. "They advocated for me and they’re my home away from home."

Can the average citizen help? Kuester thinks so. "Vote art education as a core class for standards of education," she recommends. "The workforce now is looking for people who have an aptitude for the visual and art classes help. Robbing kids of that opportunity is terrible for their future. If I have kids, they’re going to know how to paint."

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