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‘My World, Our Planet’: La Jolla students share environmental visions in San Diego Museum of Art exhibit

Eric Pan, a senior at The Bishop's School, created this work, featured in the San Diego Museum of Art's "Young Art" exhibit.
Eric Pan, a senior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, created this work, featured in the San Diego Museum of Art’s “Young Art 2021" exhibit.
(Courtesy of Elizabeth Wepsic / The Bishop’s School)

If you missed the in-person chance to see pieces from La Jolla students and others at the San Diego Museum of Art during its biennial “Young Art” exhibit, you can still take a virtual tour.

The 2021 exhibit, themed “My World, Our Planet,” encouraged students in kindergarten through 12th grade to submit “inspiring and thought-provoking” artworks centered on the environment and sustainability, according to Nicole Amaya, an educator in student programs at SDMA. “The theme was selected to stay current and empower students’ voices and viewpoints,” she said.

Of the 224 submissions received by local educators, 102 works by 200 students were selected by a jury panel. The pieces were shown for in-person viewing at SDMA until May 9.

The online version of the exhibit is available indefinitely at bit.ly/SDMAYoungArt2021, where users can view and zoom in on each piece and its description.

Eric Pan, a senior at The Bishop’s School, is one of the 11 La Jolla students whose work appears in “Young Art 2021.” He made his piece, “Disillusion,” a few years ago when the United States began to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

“I was frustrated especially by the active opposition of certain parties halting meaningful and practical change,” Pan said.

He said he’s proud to represent Bishop’s in the SDMA exhibit. “The visual arts community here has never been as robust as the performing arts or athletics communities, so we rely a lot on events such as these for engagement,” he said.

“The process of making art is usually private, but the ultimate product serves often primarily as a means of communication,” Pan said. “Exhibitions are important to this reason.”

Belen Suros, a junior at The Bishop's School, said having her piece in the SDMA “Young Art” show was "an honor."
(Courtesy of Elizabeth Wepsic / The Bishop’s School)

Bishop’s junior Belen Suros’ piece, “Stunting Growth,” which shows hands blocking a plant’s growth, aims to “focus on the often-damaging impact that humans have on nature,” she said. “I hope that portraying this massive issue on a micro scale helps to personalize the problem.”

Belen said her inclusion in the exhibit “was an honor. It’s great to know that people are seeing and thinking about my art, and it was lovely to look through all the other wonderful pieces selected for the show.”

She added that the discussions of the pieces with friends and family who visited the exhibit in person were “enlightening and enjoyable.”

Other Bishop’s students in the exhibit are freshman Elizabeth Jin, juniors Annie Fang and Sharisa You and senior Naomi Deokule.

Elizabeth Wepsic, chairwoman of Bishop’s visual arts department who also teaches a summer art course through SDMA, said “Youth Art” is an “extraordinary” experience for student artists in that it’s a professional exhibition curated and installed by professional museum staff.

“The other aspect that’s so nice about this,” Wepsic said, “is that I get to see what the other teachers are doing in other schools. There’s a real sense of community and connection there.”

For Muirlands Middle School sixth-grader Eliza Gordon, participating in a show that draws awareness to environmental causes is important because “there is no Planet B!”

The inspiration for her piece was the concept of an hourglass, “how the sand at the top slowly drifts down, and our Earth is drifting away and lands and trees are being taken away. The only difference is we can’t flip back time.”

Eliza said climate change needs to be taken seriously because “we only have one Earth and we need to protect it, and honestly I don’t really want to be living in space anytime soon. I would like for my kids and future generations to have Earth and to be breathing clean air.”

Abigail Wiener's piece in the "Young Art 2021" exhibit was inspired by an observation in her schoolyard.
Gillispie School fifth-grader Abigail Wiener’s piece in the San Diego Museum of Art’s “Young Art 2021" exhibit was inspired by an observation in her schoolyard.
(Courtesy of Susan Walters / Gillispie School)

Gillispie School fifth-grader Abigail Wiener’s inspiration came from a common sight on the schoolyard: birds picking up trash left behind from lunch.

Her piece is a drawing of a seagull with a bag of crackers. “At my school, there are a lot of seagulls that take the bags and take it to the roof and eat it,” Abigail said. “I know how important animals are to the environment and how important the environment is to us because we live here and we need it. Seagulls are being harmed by this and all animals can be harmed. If they die off, we have ourselves to blame.”

When she’s creating art, she said, “I can express myself without words. I put my feelings into one thing and let go of everything else. I’m free.”

Other Gillispie students included in “Young Art 2021” are kindergartner Landon Herrera, second-grader Maddy McCandless and fifth-grader Sydney Kass. ◆