City High’s End of the Trimester Art Show – A Beloved Tradition

And the ways it affects student's relationship to the art department


Haileigh Steffen

Finnegan Shelton ‘20 stands next to his dragon sculpture.

Haileigh Steffen, Art Editor

Haileigh Steffen
Art student Grace Freerks ‘22 holds up her ceramic creature.

Paintings hang from large display boards. Sculptures dangle from the ceiling. Glasswork pieces are illuminated by a vintage light projector. Ceramics are carefully placed upon desks. A SmartBoard runs student-made films. The sheer mass of art is an unexpected sight, even for the normally art-crowded room it occupies. Micheal Close, a City High art teacher, is searching for his coffee around large groups of students examining a stack of student made zines. It is only the first period, yet the art show is already heating up with hordes of City students, parents and faculty.

Dan Peterson is a City High art teacher and former City High student. Today, however, he is simply an art spectator and historian of this story. 

“The art show is a long tradition at City High and predates my time as a student here,” said Peterson, “so there has been a trimester art show for a very, very long time. I don’t know how many years. I remember doing it as a student and I don’t think anyone ever stopped doing it. “

The City High art show is put on at the end of each trimester by all current art classes. The art is marked and hung the day before. Snacks are laid out in a side room the morning of. Art observers then arrive throughout the day, making their way through the art rooms. Dan describes City High’s art show when he was a student similarly to today, with a few minor differences. 

Haileigh Steffen
Matt Tyler ‘20 exhibits Mario glass work. This has been the first year he has taken an art class.

“It was just a really cool way to show off all our hard work, whether it was silly and you wanted to get a good laugh or if you were sincerely proud of what you were doing ,” said Peterson. “It was required for you to put something in but it was also pretty exciting. It was also a lot more structured. I remember everyone had to sign up to bring a snack or napkins or whatever. It was a smaller space. I remember being claustrophobically smashed with art and it was awesome.”

A student from across the room chimes in that it would be amazing to be crushed by a bunch of beautiful art. Peterson laughs and replies sarcastically. This relaxed, playful tone is the environment of the art show, and it continued as Peterson describes its importance.

Examples of ceramic creatures at the City High Art Show.

Examples of ceramic creatures at the City High Art Show.Haileigh Steffen


“It’s important for kids because a lot of these students show up without a lot of skills and not a lot of confidence in their ability to make art, and without knowledge about what the point of an art class is,” Peterson said, “So, they get to end the trimester showing that they learned something or that they were able to do something that they might have not known they could do.”

Finnegan Shelton ‘20 said he has attended the art show every single time since his freshman year. This year, he is taking City High’s AP Studio Art course, a year-long class with even more freedom than the traditional trimester-long courses. Several of his cardboard pieces, an elephant eye and alien chalk piece, and a dragon sculpture, hung from the ceiling. Shelton has a lot to say about the art show and its effects on students. 

“I would say it is a give and take,” Shelton said. “The art show does not provide any [monetary] value to the art program, but it does make people more aware of it. The art teachers spend money out of their own pocket [to fund the art show], but it also brings more people down here and gets more people interested in it.”

Haileigh Steffen
Hordes of students view art of different mediums.

One such person is Matt Taylor ‘20 who took his first art class this trimester, learning how to manipulate glass. At his first art show, he has a mosaic and stained glass sunrise, and a large Mario stained glass. The last piece catches student attention throughout the day. Taylor does not regret taking the art class.  

“It was totally worth taking, really fun,” said Taylor. “I really enjoyed it.”

The students attending the art show range from City High students on their tenth trimester art show to some who have never stepped in the school’s art room before today. Shelton speaks of the art show’s effect on those who attend. 

“It immerses people who don’t consider themselves artists into art,” said Shelton.  

Jack Cochran ‘23 received a text message earlier that day telling Cochran to “check out” the show. Cochran complied. remarking about his first impressions of the displays. 

“It’s very creative. Lots of cool ceramics,” Cochran said. “It seems like a really cool environment.” 

This was the first time Cochran had been to the City High End of Trimester Art Show. But for Kenna Prottsman ‘22, this will be the first time at the show and the first time she is displaying her art.

“It’s impressive. People are more artistic than I thought.” Prottsman said. 

Haileigh Steffen
Julia Ozolins ‘21 displays her AP Studio Summer Multimedia Artwork.

After finishing a trimester of ceramics, the display of art has also changed her perspective of what an art student can mean, about what they can make. 

“[Being an art student] can mean a lot of different things,” Prottsman said. “I didn’t know that there is a video production class. So you can express yourself in all different ways.”

Prottsman also reflects on the art department’s decision to allow artists to sell artwork during the show. Prices are marked on a small tag complete with name. 

“I like [that students] can buy art because it is supporting young artists,” said Prottsman. 

Grace Freerks ‘22 receives a note on her ceramic bug. Someone wants to commission the young artist and has provided a number for contact. Elsewhere, Michael Close finally finds his cup of coffee in front of an array of detailed paintings. Shelton has taken out a tub of homemade cookies for show-goers to eat after his final oral reflection. 

“I would say that the art show is one of the things at City High that helps keep people together, less separated into groups,” said Shelton. “I appreciate that because not only do the art students come down here, but generally anyone who has time to come down here does. That allows people to experience things that they otherwise wouldn’t.”