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From trash and doodles to best in show, Willmar Senior High art students talk about their journey

Willmar Senior High School art students Ruth Navarro-Garcia and Carter Bastin were named best in show at regional competition this spring. State competition is this month.

Willmar Senior High School senior Carter Bastin creates digital art on his tablet using a stylus in the art room of Jessalyn Canavan on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Willmar Senior High School senior Carter Bastin creates digital art using a stylus on his tablet in the art room of Jessalyn Canavan on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Ruth Navarro-Garcia’s interest in art started with trash.

“I would grab little pieces of trash, like plastic bottles, and create stuff out of it when I was younger,” she said. “I loved to color, too.”

For Carter Bastin, his art interest began with “the usual doodles in elementary school.”

Ruth Navarro-Garcia opens up containers of paint before working on her "seasons" sculpture project at Willmar High School on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Ruth Navarro-Garcia opens up containers of paint before working on her "seasons" sculpture project at Willmar Senior High School on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Navarro-Garcia, 18, and Carter Bastin, 17, both seniors at Willmar Senior High School, won best-in-show awards at the regional Minnesota State High School League art show.

The state competition is later this month.

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Their works are on display in the school’s commons area.

Bastin’s digital work, called “Urban,” depicts a woman from the back, her blond hair ruffled by a breeze. She’s looking out over a gritty cityscape in muted gray, brown and blue.

Navarro-Garcia’s ceramic sculpture is called “I’m different” and has delicate butterflies mounted on a heavy base. One is larger and more colorful. “The bigger butterfly is a unique person and the other butterflies are the same; they don’t stand out,” she said.

Their teacher, Jessalyn Canavan, said she enjoyed hearing the comments when she dropped off the pieces at the competition — “watching other kids stop or the professor from (Alexandria Technical and Community College) stop and say, 'wow.'”

WHS art students 010.jpg
Willmar Senior High School senior Carter Bastin's award-winning artwork sits on display at Willmar High School on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
WHS art students 009.jpg
Ruth Navarro-Garcia's award-winning art sits on display in Willmar Senior High School on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Both students credited Canavan’s ninth-grade art class for giving them direction.

As a freshman, Bastin drew on paper, but when he was a junior in hybrid learning, he started working with drawing on a screen with a stylus.

Navarro-Garcia said she had a ceramics class in middle school but “something different happened when I came here,” she said. “I started to fall in love with clay more.”

Willmar High School senior Carter Bastin creates digital art on his tablet using a stylus in the art room of Jessalyn Canavan on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Willmar Senior High School senior Carter Bastin creates digital art using a stylus on his tablet in the art room of Jessalyn Canavan on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Navarro-Garcia said she likes to depict a mix of nature and the abstract in her pieces. She has also made cups and plates, but hasn’t sold her work yet.

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“I’ve got a lot to learn about the business side of art,” she said.

Both students plan to attend Ridgewater College after they graduate.

Bastin plans to study to become an electrician and hopes art will become his job at some point. “I’ll do art on the side until that kicks off,” he said.

Navarro-Garcia said she plans to become a massage therapist. Her future plan is to be able to save her money to go to a bigger college to study art “and have a business on the side where I sell pottery.”

Making the grade

Navarro-Garcia, Bastin and other Advanced Placement art students have been preparing to submit their projects for their Advanced Placement tests.

Willmar High School senior Carter Bastin's artwork hangs on display in the halls of the school on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Willmar Senior High School senior Carter Bastin's artwork hangs on display in the halls of the school on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Students are given a question to answer or a theme to depict in their art. They also submit a collection of their five best pieces.

Bastin’s question was “How would fashion and architecture look in the future?” He developed digital drawings of rich cityscapes and some “grungy” scenes to illustrate his vision, he said.

A piece of Ruth Navarro-Garcia's "seasons" sculpture project sits at Willmar High School on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
A piece of Ruth Navarro-Garcia's "seasons" sculpture project sits at Willmar Senior High School on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Navarro-Garcia was given the theme of “seasons.” Last week, she was working on a sculpture of delicate snowflakes suspended from an arch and planning to glaze a piece featuring fall leaves.

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The Advanced Placement students were required to write about their question or theme, too.

“They want to know that you can act like an artist, but also think like an artist,” Canavan said.

Willmar High School art teacher Jessalyn Canavan points out pieces of senior Carter Bastin's work in the hallways on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Willmar Senior High School art teacher Jessalyn Canavan points out pieces of senior Carter Bastin's work in the hallways on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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