A vacant Depot Square store front on Eastern Avenue in St. Johnsbury is currently home to an art exhibit of stencil work. Five Community High School of Vermont students participated in a stencil art workshop in June and July to meet art standard requirements for graduation. Student Eric Ely taught the workshop.
According to CHSVT teacher Sean Dobbin, "Eric was in need of art artifacts, as well as a civic engagement experience for his portfolio. Since he was aware that other students had similar needs, he had this idea to include as many of them as possible in a workshop that he led."
"I'd been doing stencil work for a while," said Ely. "I wanted to incorporate my knowledge of the stenciling somehow into a final visual piece, and teaching it would show I know and understand the process."
The stenciling process that Ely taught begins with students finding images somewhere that they want to reproduce or creating original images. Images are traced or produced onto acetate, a thin plastic sheet. Students then use X-Acto knives to cut out the negative spaces of the images to produce the stencils.
Student Robert Rohaley said the hardest part of the stencil-making was cutting "straight lines and keeping it perfect." Rohaley chose to reproduce an image of Einstein. For Rohaley, the best part of the workshop was the spray painting. This part of the process "involves hands on work, and you get to find out how your stencil comes out," said Rohaley, who chose bright orange and glow in the dark paints.
"Trying to visualize the final outcome" was the hardest part for students, according to Ely. "It was really based on how their minds saw what they wanted to produce."
"It came out better than I expected," Rohaley said of his final product.
The exhibit on Eastern Avenue came about through a conversation between Ely and Tara Holt, the St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center director. Holt suggested asking the Depot Square Apartments committee for permission to use an empty window space as a display area. "I thought that was a great idea, so we followed through with it," said Ely.
Ely installed the exhibit with the help of Dobbin and another workshop student. "People passing by can see the process of painting the stencil" as well as the finished artwork, said Ely.
For Dobbin, the most impressive part of the workshop was watching "how students worked together for a common goal with very little need for teacher intervention. I was thoroughly wowed by everyone's ability to communicate and think flexibly despite differences in age, background, and ability."
The stencil art exhibit will be on display for the month of August. Community High School of Vermont, located on Eastern Avenue, is open to students and prospective students from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and by appointment by calling Sean Dobbin at 748-0611.