Artists of Azusa High School

by Jill MacKinney '05 and Sean Fitzpatrick '04

On Tuesday, June 3, APU hosted a viewing of "The Canvas of Life" in the Wilden Lecture Hall. Produced by APU students, the documentary showcased art students at Azusa High School and won the best film award in the 2003 Iron Sharpens Iron Film Festival. The film, directed by Callie Miller '03, premiered at a festival in April before holding its debut for students who appeared in the film on Tuesday.

"The purpose of the film was to bring visibility to the powerful role art can play in underprivileged communities," said Monica Ganas, Ph.D., assistant professor in APU’s Department of Communication Studies and a producer of the film. Students and faculty from APU and Azusa High School came together to view the film and discuss the issues it highlighted.

The documentary discussed the hardships that students from underprivileged areas face in graduating from high school and going on to college. It also presented art as a supportive force in overcoming those hardships.

According to the National Arts Education website, young people who participate in the arts, when compared with those who do not, are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. "[The arts] encourage individuals to sharpen their skills and abilities and to nurture their imagination and intellect," said United States President George W. Bush in a recent speech about education. "As a nation, we must recognize the importance of the arts in building strong and vibrant communities."

After the 17-minute film, Ganas invited those involved with the film to form a panel. Attendees asked questions and discussed issues pertaining to the film. The panel shared that the experience demonstrated the importance of art, not only the students at Azusa High School, but to the entire community. "We wanted to address universal themes all people face," said Miller.

Azusa High School student Cynthia Alvarez summarized the feelings and ambitions of those involved with the project with her answer to the question: Why do you participate in the art program? "Art is something that should be known; it should keep on going."