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Heart Gallery at Crossroads Mall is high (school) art

There’s an art exhibition going up at Crossroads Mall this week that’s been created and curated entirely by Bellevue high school students.

It’s called the Heart Gallery, which stands for “high-schoolers expressing art.” It’s the brainchild of a group of seniors at Big Picture School.

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“We started to notice that our art teacher would continue talking about not having enough resources or funds to buy us new materials,” explained Senior Bella Burckhardt. “We also noticed that our art wasn’t really going anywhere. Everyone at our school is making really amazing pieces and they were just sitting in the back of the classroom.”

Bella’s passion is watercolors. Anjali Skilton loves photography. Victoria Helmer makes stained glass windows. All three are extremely well spoken. The group just recently returned from Austin, Texas, where they were selected to present their idea for the Heart Gallery at South by Southwest’s Young Entrepreneurs Conference.

This is just the latest in a long list of accomplishments they’ve already racked up before they’ve even graduated from high school. It’s all due to the focus on internships and project based learning at Big Picture, which is both a middle and high school.

From the classroom to Heart Gallery

Each year the students have to identify an area of interest that they’ll focus on. Then, they spend every Thursday in the community rather than in the classroom.

“There are a few requirements, but they don’t really feel like requirements,” Bella said. “They feel like things that will help you.”

First, they have to identify a mentor. Then, they have to find a space to meet with their mentor. Finally, they have to identify a project that will benefit both the student and the organization they’re working with.

Big Picture Advisor Kaarina Aufranc helps guide the internships and gets feedback on the student’s performance.

“They cannot believe that these kids are just kids, that they’re high school students,” Aufranc said. “I’ve heard it over and over and over again. They’re just so impressed with not just the quality of work, but the professionalism and the communication.”

Bella, Victoria, and Anjali have had a variety of internships in the six years they’ve spent at Big Picture, including work at the Bellevue Arts Museum, the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department,  KBCS Radio, a start-up company on Mercer Island, and the Bellevue Schools Foundation.

They’re now using all of that experience and their connections to open the Heart Gallery at Crossroads Mall.

The art will be on display March 21 through April 4. All of the pieces will be available for purchase with proceeds returning to the arts programs in the Bellevue School District.

This year’s theme is the Pacific Northwest. And, hopefully, Heart Gallery will be back again next year.

“We’re hoping to package this up and pass it down to other high schoolers in our school who have internship opportunities,” Bella said. “It’s definitely something we want to continue, and continue to grow.”

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