Batavia High students take on fashion design challenge
I never miss an episode of "Project Runway," the fashion design show on the Lifetime channel starring Heidi Klum. I am always amazed at what the young designers can create, especially out of nontraditional materials, such as newspapers, car parts or even items retrieved from a trash can.
For the past seven years, art students at Batavia High School have also taken on the design challenge, creating wearable art from any nonfabric material, for the B.H.S. Rock the Runway Show. This year's show takes place Friday, Feb. 3, at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.
"In 2009, I had a student approach me about doing a 'Project Runway' type of garment," said Dawn Zalkus, the art teacher who facilitates the program. "That first year we had nine students who participated and about 100 people came to our show in my classroom."
Last year, B.H.S. Rock the Runway had 31 students presenting wearable art to an audience of 700 in the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.
These creative students put in many hours working on their wearable art. Some students go to a recycle shop and pick up a garment for the base rather than sew or construct a garment on their own.
"It's OK to use an existing garment as long as the fabric is totally covered," added Zalkus.
The designers not only create the wearable art, they also have to find models and direct hair and makeup.
"For the past five years, Colour Line Studios in Geneva has closed their salon and come here to do all of the models' hair," said Zalkus.
The designers work with their models to get the right look and to make sure that they can wear the garment with confidence.
Last year's winner, Isabel Walker, a junior, created her award-winning garment out of beads, copper metal and window screens, Wearing the garment wasn't easy for her model, Emmy Ozanne.
"She had a few scratches but she wore it beautifully," said Walker. "It was exhilarating to see her come down the runway and to hear the audience reaction."
Walker is planning something equally creative this year, working in metals, tracing paper and Mod Podge for texture and variation.
Devin Couturier won the People's Choice Award last year. The talented senior created her look for model Tori McKeehan out of coffee filters.
"The garment had a really long train," said Couturier. "I made flowers out of coffee filters and then colored them with makeup blush to cover the dress and the train."
This year, Couturier has take china dishes and broken them to create mosaic pieces. She will trim the garment in tea bags.
"When you are doing art that has weight like the mosaic you have to construct a base garment out of a strong material," she added. "I'm using canvas because it's really strong."
Couturier has competed every year and felt her sophomore year was the most exciting.
"My freshman year I didn't put as much time into it," she added. "My sophomore year I was very proud of what I made. I watched the show from the sound booth and my heart dropped when the model came out wearing my art. It was so exciting."
Unfortunately, Couturier didn't have the same feeling last year.
"I was so tired of making flowers out of coffee filters," she said. "It just wasn't the same."
For Dawn Zalkus, B.H.S. Rock the Runway is a rewarding effort.
"Each year, the show grows with a larger audience," said Zalkus. "It's been exciting to see how the students have grown as well, pushing the envelope, taking risks, and trying new materials."
Both Isabel Walker and Devin Couturier are part of the creative directing team that picks the theme for the show and handles all the production duties. This year's theme is "Time."
Art students often do amazing works with little or no recognition. It's great to see that B.H.S. now has a parent group, "Studio" that supports these talented students. It's also rewarding to see that the art students have the opportunity to showcase their work on the Fine Arts Centre stage.
If you goWhat: B.H.S. Rock the Runway, featuring non-fabric fashion designs by Batavia High School art students
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3
Where: Batavia Fine Arts Centre, 1200 W. Wilson St.
Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors in advance; $12 and $7 at the box office.
Information: www.studio batavia.org