SFU Surrey students Jonathan Morrissey

Surrey students help showcase Surrey youth artwork

Youth Visions online gallery gets some summer help from SFU students.

Five students from Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology are spending the summer at a Surrey high school, helping turn more than 900 pieces of B.C.’s youth art into a virtual showcase.

Working with Sullivan Heights Secondary school art teacher Mark Pelech, they’re retouching scanned newspaper clippings of showcased art along with photographs of artwork – including some 60 murals – to create a stunning online reproduction. The site will also provide archival information about the young artists and their work.

“This will hold an incredible wealth of youth generated artwork, capturing their impressions and showcasing their talent through these time periods,” says Pelech, who has been archiving student art since 1994 – a project he calls Youth Visions.

“When complete, it will be a seamless presentation that says, ‘this is your community art,’ as a matter of public record. It will also support emerging artists by establishing credentials.”

Pelech earlier involved students from the former Tech BC, who began work on the project. Involving SFU Surrey students this summer is a first. The students – Flory Huang, Paulina Lam, Jonathan Morrissey, Kyla Rosario, and Nicola Sznajder – will contribute 1,800 hours to ready the website for a provincial launch this fall.

The students use extensions of Photoshop and other editing programs, specialized skills taught by Pelech.

“The techniques I’m teaching them are as close to being masterful as one can get,” he says.

Those involve delving deep into the grain of old newspaper clips and working to “clean up” various artifacts, even wearing away pixels on low-resolution digital photos to enable normally unachievable enlargements. Using an algorithm developed by Pelech, it’s possible to increase the size of photos with minimal pixilation as much as 1,000 per cent.

The online database will include more than 300 newspaper articles and contain 24 galleries to display student artwork.

“Developing this extensive website has been an exciting challenge for me,” says Morrissey. “I get to combine my interest in the fine arts and my technical skills to promote impressive youth artwork.”

“What I really love about this project is how it’s going to promote and help artists in B.C. and hopefully in Canada,” adds Lam. “It allows them to display their work and be recognized for their amazing efforts and talents.”

Pelech hopes to see the website become national in scope and mark Canada’s 150th year in 2017.

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