DHS Opens Up a New Window into the Visual Arts Program


Maeve Butler

Many students will admire the different works throughout the day.

Maeve Butler, Managing Editor

At DHS, it seems that no matter the time of year, there’s always an event happening. Whether it be a Friday night football game or one of the school’s plays, it’s safe to say that this school has its fair share of “exhibits” for its activities—but when it comes to arts, there really isn’t the same kind of opportunity. This year, however, things are changing. Thanks to the dedication and direction of art teacher Tim Bleck, as well as help from art teacher Christopher Sykora, the art department now has its own “Friday night football game.”

Installing an art gallery at the school has been a goal of Bleck’s since the day he was hired. He believes that imitating the level of professionalism artists face in the “real world” would be incredibly beneficial to current art students, and installing this gallery would achieve just that. Bleck also touched on the fact that most of the other activities at DHS have a space to emulate this professionalism, but up until this year, art students have not.  

“There’s a rather professional space for athletic events—a football stadium, a baseball field, a gymnasium—and all we get are display cases in front of the auditorium,” Bleck explains.

Back in 2016, when Dr. Dignam was the principal of DHS, Bleck had come to him with serious plans for a gallery. In his previous years, ideas about an art gallery never really stuck with other administrators, but Dignam completely embraced it. The initial construction began in the summer of 2017, but with Dignam’s becoming superintendent, it took until this summer to fully complete the project.

In terms of construction, the gallery required a substantial amount of labor. Originally Bleck had hoped to use room P108 as the location of the gallery (which is currently a darkroom for photography classes), but early on rejected that idea because of ventilation issues. Since a gallery will inevitably have people standing in it for a relatively long period of time, rooms in the school like P108 that are unusually warm were not good candidates. The next choice was the miscellaneous storage room behind the union, which Bleck decided, with a little construction, would work well.

The need for construction meant that the project would be turned over to Ken Williams, who is DHS’s assistant principal and also specializes in building management of the school. After this transition the project started its major construction.

Firstly, as the student storage room was actually two rooms connected by a wall, this wall had to be knocked down. On one wall there was a window, which was subsequently moved to the side of the room which allows the inside of the room to now be viewed from the senior cafeteria. Once the layout of the room was corrected, the next issue was the actual hanging of the paintings. The walls were originally brick, which isn’t ideal when it comes to putting up nails, so the material had to be changed. They put drywall over all the brick to solve that issue. Lastly, they installed track lighting in the room—replacing the original fluorescent lighting that are in a typical classroom which really don’t provide sufficient light for art pieces.

The gallery technically hasn’t had an official opening yet. There is art there right now, but that’s because Bleck wanted there to be something in the gallery for parents to see at open house. All the pieces currently on display are from last year’s AP Art students. He plans to host several shows with the gallery across the year, with the first one opening next week on November 26.

The inaugural show will feature two guest artists and friends of DHS, David and Patsy Ritter. David Ritter is the former Fine Arts Department chair of DHS, and his wife, Patsy, is a former teacher at Lake Forest Country Day elementary school.
“David played a crucial role in the development of R-Hall. Before he worked here, there really was no place for fine arts classes—they were sort of randomly spread out throughout the school.”

Since David had such a fundamental role in the establishment and growth of R-Hall, Bleck felt it was only appropriate that he speak at DHS’s first ever art gallery.

Bleck and Sykora plan to have several more shows in the future. Sykora hopes to bring in a social justice group called Breaking Criminal Traditions later in the year to talk on the crucial role art plays in changing the laws and norms of a society. He also supports the gallery for the opportunities it gives to art students at the school.

“I think the opportunities for student shows will help our AP students to learn important curation and presentation skills that are big part of our state and national standards,” Sykora said.

Current art students are excited about the new opportunities having an art gallery brings. Charles Hsu, a junior in AP art, touched on how he had always wished that there was a presentation for student artwork on a larger scale than display cases in the hallway.

He said, “I think I can speak on behalf of all art students that this gallery is an amazing addition to an already great art program here at DHS.”