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WCHS students will travel to one of the world's art meccas this month for an up-close study of the masters

Rebecca Wheeler holds a clay penguin candle holder
Warren County High School art student Rebecca Wheeler, 18, holds a clay penguin candle holder she made as part of her portfolio on display at the school. Wheeler is among a small group of students who will accompany their teacher on a trip to Italy after graduation. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

multimedia collage of social issues
Senior Emily Sullivan contributed to the multimedia collage of social issues. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Ellen Smith's clay teapot
Ellen Smith's clay teapot is a replica of her chihuahua Sampson. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By M.K. Luther - mkluther@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- A small group of Warren County High School students will cap their four-year artistic voyage by traveling to Italy after graduation.

Four students, including seniors Rebecca Wheeler, Ellen Smith and Emily Sullivan, will depart on June 16 with Warren County High School art teacher Rhonda Smith for an almost two-week trip to Italy.

"It is an incredible journey for them," Smith said.

The students will tour some of the country's art museums and get a close look at examples of the craft and techniques they have been studying for years.

"A lot of the artwork they have studied in here, they are actually going to get to see," Smith said. "And when I saw it for the first time -- I was in tears."

The three students also presented their high school art portfolios with a display at Warren County High School, hosting a June 1 reception for family and friends to attend.

The Senior Showcase highlights the students' work from all four years of their studies, Smith said, and shows how they have developed their talent and style.

"Their parents get to see how they have progressed," Smith said.

While the majority of the high school art classes focus on studio work, the curriculum also covers art history, Smith said.

The art classes are electives, Smith said, and students learn the basics and principles of design from the start to lay the foundation for any future art studies.

"When you see talent and you see dedicated students, it is a pleasure to go the extra mile to see them succeed in life," she said.

The students all received scholarships to college and plan to continue art education, Smith said.

"They are very serious about their art," Smith said. "They are really involved in their subject."

Ellen Smith, who will attend Lord Fairfax Community College after graduation and then transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University, said she has discovered over the years that she has a passion for working with clay.

"You can really express yourself with it," she said.

She said she plans to become an art teacher.

Sullivan, who will attend the University of Virginia, found the culmination of her high school art career in an elaborate multimedia presentation for her final project. Sullivan spent the whole spring working on the project, which evolved from an idea for a painting representing current cultural issues.

"It took a lot of research and a lot of time," Sullivan said.


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