Malibu Middle and High School’s Art Show highlights students’ enormous talents

(From left to right) Arts Angels team members Lujanda Garvin, Karen Clark, (President) Jo Drummond Leila O'Herlihy, Kate Johnson, and Patrick Murphy attend the first Malibu Middle and High School Art Show on Wednesday, April 24. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Community celebrates the first annual art show on the Malibu campus

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

An impressive array of intriguing visual artworks in many media warmly embraced attendees as they entered the Malibu High School PTSA room to enjoy the first annual Malibu Middle and High School Art Show on April 24.

Students, teachers, administrators, parents, and members of the community all mingled amidst the displays of paintings, sketchings, ceramics, sculptures, photography, digital design, poetry, and film.

In a community overflowing with thought leaders and creatives, it’s fun to celebrate the next generation’s many artistic talents.  

Oscar Johnson, an eighth-grader, served as the event’s DJ. “I played a lot of stuff from the artist Stick Figure,” Johnson said, noting he wanted to set the best vibe for those viewing the artworks. “I also played cool Hawaiian artists and chill beach music.”

Attendees learned a lot about interesting forms of art that they perhaps have never previously encountered, including a middle school art installation near the venue’s entrance celebrating the intriguing concepts at the intersection of mathematics and art that were illustrated in a non-periodic tiling work.

“A 13-sided shape known as ‘the hat’ has mathematicians tipping their caps. It’s the first true example of an ‘einstein,’ a single shape that forms a special tiling of a plane,” an explanatory poster adjacent to the artwork informed, adding that there were no gaps or overlays in the piece, but only a pattern that never repeats. 

“Mathematicians had been searching for such a shape for half a century,” the poster continued, quoting mathematician Marjorie Senechal of Smith College. Another interesting detail, the poster explained, is that, “although the name ‘einstein’ conjures up the iconic physicist, it derives from the German words ‘ein Stein,’ meaning ‘one stone,’ referring to the artwork’s single tile with an aperiodic form, meaning that it can’t form a pattern that repeats.” The poster concluded the discussion by noting, “The hat is special because there is no way it can create a periodic pattern.”

Discussing his contribution to the einstein hat tile, and pointing out his contributions to the artwork, eighth-grade artist Daire O’Herlihy said, “We made this puzzle tile piece from cardboard in Mr. Hacker’s class and I liked doing so a lot because it was very fun and lots of my friends and I made it.” 

Daire also commented that his father has always loved art and that when his dad was a young adult, he chose to pursue architecture.

Such comments from a young, inspired artist are what motivates Malibu Middle School and Malibu High School’s dedicated art teachers as well as the parents’ Arts Angels program to foster creativity of all types in Malibu’s young students. This year, it was very special for all involved to have the art show in Malibu instead of having it in Santa Monica as part of the SMMUSD annual art show.

Smiling broadly amidst the crowd, Tom Whaley, SMMUSD’s visual and performing arts coordinator, discussed Malibu High’s hosting its first annual art show.

“I’m a huge fan of Malibu’s visual arts program and seeing all these wonderful artworks makes me inspired,” Whaley said. “Having the art show here in Malibu is just great! For years, we have wanted to have Malibu host its own art show and now we can because the new building is perfect for doing so!”

Whaley also said that he hopes the art show becomes an annual tradition and that he’d like to build on that tradition by having a local civic organization sponsor scholarships for students, as has been an SMMUSD tradition.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a civic organization such as the Rotary or Optimist Club here in Malibu would coordinate with the school to offer four scholarships to students who are selected by local qualified artists who adjudicate their work?” Whaley queried, expressing an invitation to anyone in the community to contact him if they are interested in coordinating that for next year. “Please have them consider exploring that opportunity for the students in Malibu and reach out to me at”

Agreeing with Whaley’s assessment that opportunities such as the art classes and an art show are invaluable to middle and high school students was parent Patrick Murphree who came to admire the artistic creations by his son Wiley, a 10th-grader, as well as works created by other students.

“I think that it is important to provide opportunities such as digital design class because it’s invaluable for kids to be able to express their feelings and thoughts in a piece of art and to not always just communicate in a dialogue.” Patrick Murphree said.  

The poetry displayed also educated observers by discussing blackout poetry, also known as erasure or redacted poetry, which are all types of found poetry.

“Specifically, found poetry has a goal of using pre-existing or ‘found’ text to create something new,” an explanatory poster stated. “Portions of the original text are kept, while other parts are drawn over or crossed out. Well-crafted blackout poetry can give new meanings to old texts.” 

Everywhere attendees looked, they viewed stunningly beautiful creative works.

A black and white painting with striking angular dimensions caught this reporter’s eye. “That work is by Koa Wellwood from my AP drawing and painting class,” art teacher Thor Evenson said. “And, look at this stunning painting by student Tatiana Punnett — many of the artists in these classes are extremely talented!”

When asked about why she loves to paint, student artist Wellwood responded, “My inspirations are life and beauty. I want to keep making my work here in Malibu where I’m constantly surrounded by them.”

Some of the photography was created by MHS junior Emma Marshall. 

“I made this work with pieces of flowers that were compact in a negative carrier and printed in a darkroom,” Marshall said. “Learning traditional film development is a really cool skill to learn, especially because you learn how to use the chemicals in the dark room.”

For somewhat older attendees and art aficionados, it was so nice to see some old-school art in Malibu’s new high school. In a world where artificial intelligence is prolific, the teaching of such originality in art creation remains imperative, said film teacher Rachel Stowell, noting that otherwise, creativity might be thwarted.

Many Malibuans celebrating the successful show highly complimented and sincerely thanked the school’s dedicated art teachers, including Carla Bowman-Smith, Thomas Hacker, Evenson, and Stowell, whose leadership and nurturing of creative freedom empowered the young artists to express themselves and to explore various artistic media.