With the HSC examinations completed, results published and ATAR marks revealed, graduating classes of 2016 around Australia can now fully relax and start to plan for the next chapter of their lives.

It is no secret that the demands of the HSC can at times make students reach deep into their toolbox of coping mechanisms and study resources. For SMGS boarding student, Grace Kerr, her passion for art provided an opportunity to help her, even momentarily, escape the rigours of the HSC.

Snowy Mountains Grammar School had some exceptional results in the HSC across a wide range of subjects. For Grace, who achieved a Band 6, her Visual Arts work was reviewed a third time for nomination into the 2016 ArtExpress showcase.

According to Grace’s Visual Arts teacher, Mrs Katie Witherdin, Grace is the first SMGS student in 17 years to be nominated for the prestigious exhibition.

Of the process for nomination to the ArtExpress showcase, Mrs Witherdin explained that the selection process is undertaken during the marking of the HSC projects. Markers can nominate work that they feel is exemplary. Out of the 9000 students who took Visual Arts as an HSC subject (one of the highest participation rates on record), Grace was nominated as 1 of 500 in the state. After this initial selection, Grace’s work was then reviewed by curators of various galleries, including the Gallery of NSW and the Armory Gallery at Olympic Park.  Curators choose the artworks that they would like to exhibit.  This selection process is more subjective and often dictated by a criterion that suits the galleries’ objectives for their exhibitions. ArtExpress exhibitions run throughout the year, both in metropolitan galleries and followed by a regional tour.

Mrs Witherdin did not hesitate to praise Grace’s obvious passion, creativity and work ethic and, when asked about Grace’s final HSC work, she said, “Her love for Art lies in drawing and this is what she focused on this year. Being a great drawer, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will achieve great results. Grace decided that she needed to create a work that would set her apart, hence the decision to create dioramas in 3D instead of just creating a traditionally formatted drawing Body of Work. The skeleton as a subject was introduced to Grace as a part of her Year 11 studies and immediately intrigued and interested her, so this seemed a natural choice of subject for her HSC Body of Work.”

Art, at its very core, evokes emotion and contemplation. For Grace, her innovative works explored the idea that when we die all that remains is the skeleton, and although discarded, it forms ‘dwellings’ for insects post mortem. This choice of concept allowed her to really showcase her skills in drawing. Using felt tip pen, and the diorama format, her work engages the audience through her execution and art-making choices.

We caught up with Grace over the weekend to gain a bit more insight into her time at SMGS, mentors, and what she has planned for the future.

Q. You were recently nominated for consideration for inclusion in ArtExpress. Can you tell us what this means to you?

“A lot of time and effort was put into this work. The nomination feels amazing for the years’ worth of work to be recognised.”

Q. Has Visual Art always been something you were interested in?

“Visual Arts has been my favorite subject since day one of school.”

Q. How has your time at SMGS contributed to helping you pursue your passion in the Arts? Are there any mentors or teachers at SMGS who have been instrumental in helping you along the way?

“I would not have been able to achieve these results, or be completely happy with my major work and marks, without my teacher and mentor Mrs Witherdin. She has supported and guided me throughout my time at SMGS and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Q. Do you have any advice for students looking to pursue Visual Arts?

“Make sure your major work is something you enjoy doing – it makes your year a lot more pleasant!”

Q. Where will you be starting your post-secondary study?

“Studying Design Honours or Interior Architecture Honours at UNSW.”

Principal Andrew Bell was thrilled with Grace’s outstanding results and he echoed the pride felt by the entire SMGS community, saying, “Grace thoroughly deserved her outstanding results in Visual Arts, having worked diligently throughout the entire course and the years leading up to the HSC. Her growth in her Art has coincided with her personal growth, which in both cases have matured, to be exceptionally pleasing. We are proud of Grace and her well-deserved result.”

Below you will find a few images of Grace’s final HSC works, as well as her acceptance of one of SMGS’ Senior School Special Awards which are presented during Speech Day, the Novotel Lake Crackenback Prize for Visual Arts.

Visual Arts at Snowy Mountains Grammar School

Visual Arts at SMGS has been evolving for quite some time.  The Senior Visual Arts course has been developed to allow students to discover and cultivate their skills and knowledge, find their strengths as artists in a creative, supportive and engaging environment for learning. This helps to create the opportunity to develop not only a student’s technical abilities but also allows for them to build confidence and achieve the success that often they did not think they were capable of achieving.

From the initial stages of Primary Art and throughout Year 7 and 8, students are not only learning about ‘drawing and painting’ but also discovering the potential of their creative abilities which can be applied to all aspects of their education.

The establishment of the School of Visual Arts as an Academy of Excellence this year has given students further opportunity to intensively study and work as artists and develop their creativity.

To learn more about the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, click here!