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updated: 1/4/2013 1:53 PM

Students from South Elgin High School's Advanced Photography Program Exhibit at West Chicago's Gallery 200

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  • High school senior and Gallery 200 member Alyse Teschke (left) and South Elgin High School teacher Barbara Bernard (right) take a break from installing the "South Elgin Advanced Photography Exhibit" which will be on display through January 27,  2013 at Gallery 200 in West Chicago, Illinois.

    High school senior and Gallery 200 member Alyse Teschke (left) and South Elgin High School teacher Barbara Bernard (right) take a break from installing the "South Elgin Advanced Photography Exhibit" which will be on display through January 27, 2013 at Gallery 200 in West Chicago, Illinois.
    Krista Coltrin

Krista Coltrin

Students enrolled in advanced photography classes at South Elgin High School present an exhibit of works that represent them both technically and conceptually as artists. The "South Elgin Advanced Photography Exhibit" explores their mastery of traditional darkroom techniques as well as their contemporary digital works. The exhibit will be on display through January 27, 2013 at Gallery 200 in West Chicago, Illinois.

Alyse Teschke is a resident of unincorporated West Chicago and a senior at South Elgin High School enrolled in the Advanced Photography Program. She joined Gallery 200, an artist co-op supported by the City of West Chicago, in August 2012 after regular visits to the downtown business district. Said Teschke, "My mom and I would stop in the Gallery to see what was new. I had all of these photographs and wanted to see if they would accept me. I was the final photographer they could accept as there is a limit of five."

Her membership requirements include staffing the Gallery for a minimum of four hours per month and rotating her art inventory quarterly. She has enjoyed viewing the monthly featured artist exhibits and, upon reviewing the monthly schedule, noticed that there was an opening during the school year. "When I saw that January was available, I wanted to see if my school could exhibit as the featured artists," said Teschke.

Staffing the Gallery has provided an opportunity for Teschke to learn the business side of art. She plans to continue studying photography after high school, but her educational focus will be in the culinary arts as a pastry chef. She intends to continue her education at Elgin Community College.

Barbara Bernard is the teacher for the photography program and developed the program for visual arts at South Elgin High School. She explained that the Photography Department is well recognized, particularly for its short existence. The high school opened its doors to students in 2005 and is a relative new comer as an academic facility. "Our students recently participated in an art competition in the Upstate Eight conference at the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles. Out of 14 regions, our students received five awards -- 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th place and Honorable Mention," said Bernard.

According to Bernard, it is critical that the students enrolled in the coursework are exposed to the same high expectations as set in college curriculums, and she credits the success of the students to the high standards of the high school program. "Public perception is that the arts are easier than academic degrees, and this is not the case," said Bernard.

The program begins with Discovery Photography, a prerequisite one semester exploratory class involving traditional darkroom and digital photography skills. Upon completion, students can then enter Photography 1-2, an extension of the exploratory class which is comparable to beginning coursework offered at community colleges. Photography 3-4 builds on prior knowledge and ends with the completion of a portfolio which could allow for exemption from introductory college coursework. The final class, Photography 5-6, is conceptually based and involves "creative problem solving," where students must submit artist statements as to how their thought processes relate to problem solving with each assignment.

Although few students continue with photography as a career after graduation, Bernard emphasizes the real world skills the students develop. She notes that each student becomes their own project manager and director, learning time-based management skills as they determine what location to shoot or whether they need to schedule a model. "From inception to completion, anyone going into a professional work environment will end up on a project and will need to know how to manage their time effectively," said Bernard.

Participants in the exhibit will be from Photography 3-4 and Photography 5-6. Students were asked to pick their three strongest images and create titles. For Bernard, her favorite part of the task was to observe the discussion amongst peers as they worked to determine their best images and appropriate titles. The students will also participate in the installation of the exhibit as a demonstration of project completion.

The public is invited to attend a free Opening Reception for the "South Elgin Advanced Photography Exhibit" on Thursday, January 10, 2013 from 5:00 -- 8:00 p.m. at Gallery 200, 200 Main Street, West Chicago. Students from the program will be available to discuss the objectives of their assignments and communicate how they successfully achieved them. Refreshments will also be served.

Gallery 200 has served as an incubator for creative talent for the surrounding area for the past seven years and is proud to welcome a series of exhibits in collaboration with educational art programs in 2013. Participating in the Featured Artist Series are programs from South Elgin High School in January, Blackburn College Department of Visual Arts in February, West Chicago Elementary School District 33 in March and College of DuPage in April. This exciting collaboration will showcase the abundant creative talent that resides in West Chicago and the surrounding communities, and is evidence of the supporting role of Gallery 200 as a venue for developing, emerging and proficient artists of all media.

Gallery 200 is a cultural initiative supported by the City of West Chicago and the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission, and is one more reason West Chicago was named an Illinois Arts Friendly Community in 2007. Gallery 200 is open Thursday and Friday from 12:00 - 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. For more information, including a complete list of current art classes, call (630) 293-9550 or visit