"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before" — "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe's famous line stands for every artist of every stripe peering into the depths of their unspeakable uniqueness, and struggling to bring forth what no human has expressed before. A daunting task, but for the avowed creative, it is the purpose and very meaning of life itself.

"Bringing to life something no one has seen before is creation in its purest form," Michael Hensley said in an exhibit statement for the teen art show opening with a reception Wednesday (April 11), 5-6:30 p.m., at Millicent Rogers Museum, 1504 Millicent Rogers Road in El Prado.

Hensley is founder, artistic director, art instructor of Taos High School, University of New Mexico-Taos dual credit arts program, Taos Arts Club/ Teen Art Studio, and a soccer coach. He challenges his teenage students to grab creativity by the horns and present it to the world as original and immediate as every breath they take. It's excellent training, he finds, for young adults embarking upon the journey into their own new worlds.

Students start developing their portfolios in the high school arts department, developing their own personality and character in their work. Hensley assigned his advanced art students first to peer deeply into "The Raven" by Poe and "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll and then to produce the work on exhibit in "Tales of the Imagination," the theme for this year's annual teen art show at the museum.

"Each of the young artists included in this exhibition spent the past year immersed in the intellectual and philosophical musings of these phantasmic creations," he said, spending endless hours "exploring and mastering the elements of drawing; [making] investigations and inquiries into the classic musings, the pervasiveness of how they may relate to contemporary society. How this literary work may be tastefully expressed in our current visual arts culture was a motivating force and the ultimate challenge. Emerging from the creative recesses of their imagination, this exhibition is a culmination of their triumphs in translating the written word into a visual language."

The show includes the past year's work of second and third quarter students of his fantasy art and creature design class, where students have to take a full year of artistic anatomy to qualify. The high school's art classes are dual credit classes, but the students get to attend at the high school's art studio.

"I really like the high school's art studio," he said about the program he started four years ago when he moved from adjunct professor of art with UNM to Taos High School's full-time art instructor. "I get to create my own curriculum and work with the students for four years. A number of students will take two or three classes at a time they like it so much."

He still holds Taos Arts Club at Millicent Rogers Museum in the summer, he said, and "even though it's mostly high school kids, a core of the older kids still come in the summer. Which is nice because I'll have some teens and 10 to 12-year-olds in with the older kids. I usually do a brief talk, and then they'll draw, and while they're drawing, they'll interact and help each other."

The MRM teen art show is a collaborative effort between the Taos Arts Club/Teen Art Studio, Taos High School and the UNM-Taos dual credit program. The museum's mission includes connecting with the cultures and communities represented in its collection by engaging in community outreach and sponsoring events, such as the teen art exhibition. Additionally, it is the mission of the Taos Arts Club/ Teen Art Studio to use art as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of youth.

"The Taos Arts Club/ Teen Art Studio combines both art instruction and life skills education," exhibit press continues. "Activities help the youth in our community come into a greater awareness of the intellectual being through self-expression and creative reasoning. The youthful artisans are encouraged to make healthy life choices for their futures while at the same time feeling a sense of community."

Many area youth are challenged by a variety of social and economic factors, and the Taos Arts Club, Teen Art Studio strives to enrich youth art education with access to quality art instruction and art studio opportunities.

The exhibit of student art will be on view through May 6.

For more information, call (575) 758-2462 or visit millicentrogers.com or facebook.com/TaosArtsClubTeenArtStudio.

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