BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Students at Woodrow Wilson High School took local art into their own hands with a new exhibit for seniors in Art Club debuting May 14, 2022.

It’s the beginning of a new partnership between the Art Club and the Beckley Art Center to give students a chance to work with a non-profit organization and exploring new interests.

It also provided a new way for students to express themselves in a time where constant change and an ongoing pandemic disrupted the lives of everyone and left lasting mental health effects on teenagers and children.

Flying Eagles senior and Art Club President Mikael Bates said a lot of the art focuses on exploring themes of identity and social issues as the students learn to navigate unprecedented experiences.

“For me, with the pandemic, I definitely turned to art, like did a full 360 from what I wanted to do before then after,” Bates said. “I know so many students feel the same way. I think a lot of the work that I’ve seen is really about identity, shifting an identity, and transforming in a good way and a bad way and that stems across all medias.”

“The art that I made this year was frog-themed, I love frogs, I did a lot of frogs in famous paintings so that is really exciting, but a lot of the themes here are so diverse,” said Hannah Gwinn, a fellow senior in the art club.

The partnership also benefits the Art Center. As it gives younger students the chance to experience Beckley in a new way, preserve Appalachian culture and embrace a culture that has brought more students to the forefront of the arts community.

“There’s been a little bit of a shift in the narrative of being a small towner, of being from West Virginia or being an Appalachian, and I feel like they just really want to connect to their roots and take back their own narrative of what it means to be an Appalachian and to be a small young artist,” said Saja Montague, the Visual Arts Director for the Beckley Arts Center.

The exhibit opens on the lower level of the Beckley Art Center on Saturday, May 14, 2022, at 6:00 p.m.