Dozens of budding artists left the comfort of the classroom to put their creations on public display. Art students from Holy Trinity Academy and Alberta High School of Fine Arts (AHSFA) joined their Calgary counterparts to showcase their drawings, paintings, sculptures and other mediums in the Leighton Art Centre’s annual Youth Works exhibit. The exhibit opened Dec. 1 and is on display until Jan. 5. “Visitors who come and see the show always gasp when they walk into the house,” said Stephanie Doll, Leighton Art Centre director of exhibitions, museum and programming. “We’ve gotten some comments saying these are works that you think are already being sold in shows and galleries. A lot of people can’t believe they’re teenagers.” Doll said the art centre has given young artists the opportunity to showcase their work publicly in the rural gallery for five years. “We’re so excited because every year the quality of the work just gets better and better,” she said. “The students and teachers are putting in a marvelous amount of work.” This year’s exhibit features more than 100 drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramics. “It gives the youth an opportunity to show their work so it doesn’t go into a sketch book or binder to be forgotten,” she said. “They get public reaction to the work and get to discuss it with others. It gives the artists a lot of incentive to make a serious piece of artwork that’s going to be seen by the community.” AHSFA Grade 10 student Kennedy Smith said her clay wax angel wings received a lot of praise at the Dec. 1 artists reception. “A lot of people were shocked that I did that by myself,” she said. “I got a lot of ‘good job’ and ‘it looks amazing.’ It was a really cool experience.” Smith was inspired to create the project in honour of her mother, who passed away when Smith was just eight years old. “She had a tattoo of angel wings and I’ve always liked it and the meaning behind it,” she said. “It’s different for everyone, but for me it’s like you can go anywhere in life and you know you’re free to do whatever you want to.” Smith chose the clay wax medium after being introduced to sculptures by her art teacher Paul Rasporich. Rasporich encourages his art students to enter each year. This year, close to 40 participated. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to show and have the experience of exhibiting their work and even selling their work,” he said. “It’s really valuable because they’re showing their art to the public and are interacting with the public and their presentation has to be very professional.” Students choosing to participate are required to have their work presentation ready, meaning it has to be matted and framed if it’s a painting or drawing. Students must also create an artist’s statement to discuss the work and meaning behind it. Each year, Rasporich gets more impressed with the students’ creations. “A lot of the work that the kids are producing, I wasn’t producing that quality until I graduated from art college years ago,” he said. “The kids have access to information on YouTube. It’s much more at their fingertips than when I was young.” At Holy Trinity Academy, Grade 11 student Gabby Godfrey created an acrylic painting inspired by award-winning actor, the late Robin Williams. “I really like portraitures and I wanted to paint someone who had so much love for the community, but with an emotionless face,” she said. “He clearly was a troubled man but still put on a brave face. I felt it was one of my best works.” Being a part of Youth Works was the icing on the cake for Godfrey. “It was such a cool experience being able to go not only to see your own work but to see the incredible work other students your age have done. It’s just a beautiful location as well.” Godfrey’s art teacher Sarah Johnson said it’s all about the experience. “We get invited every year and I just ask students who might be interested or who would really benefit from it or who maybe need a confidence boost or that I recognize something in their work that they don’t necessary see,” she said. Fifteen Grade 11 and 12 students entered work this year, she said.