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Century High student turns creative attention to National Gallery of Art

The headless figure in the "cow face" yoga position, made of porcelain clay, still needs its arm fixed and a few touch-ups before Lauren Siminski hollows it out and sands it.

For now, it sits calmly on a table, surrounded by other projects in Century High School's art room, awaiting its time to be baked and glazed.

The figure will be the largest of the eight statues of women doing yoga poses that Siminski will create for her AP portfolio, and it'll be the one she presents at the end of her high school seminar at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

"It's going to be on display, and I didn't want it to be really small," said Siminski, 17. "Most of the people are doing paintings."

Siminski, a senior at Century, is one of 18 high school students from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. who have been accepted into the National Gallery of Art's art seminar class. The class is series of 10, four-hour Saturday classes that started in October and run through February.

"It is an impressive program," said Jeffrey Sharp, an art teacher at Century and an instructor in the seminar program and Siminski's sponsor. "It is a lot of dedication on the student's part … to give up 10 Saturdays and all the extra work."

Though Sharp is an instructor, he said Siminski was not accepted into the program because he was her high school teacher. She had to fill out an extensive application that included comparing two pieces of art before she was accepted.

"I didn't really know what it was," Siminski admitted about the seminar when Sharp approached her about it.

The seminar, Sharp said, teaches art and its history, but also provides opportunities for public speaking, research and insight into careers in art.

"It combines so many different thing ….and they're all mixed together," Sharp said. "The reason I chose Lauren is because she had an interest in doing more."

Each student participant was required to select a theme from topics selected by the gallery. Siminski chose the human form, to coincide with her yoga women project at school.

"I picked the human figure so I wouldn't go out of my way and do something else," said Siminski, who has many different projects, including paintings, in the works for her art classes at Century. "I don't do yoga, but I just think it is interesting. There are a bunch of yoga websites I used for research."

As a participant in the seminar, Siminski has learned the ins and outs of the gallery, having been given a behind the scenes tour of the museum, as well as an inside look on the creation of an exhibit.

She had the opportunity to lead a gallery talk and create a magazine page. She also has learned about various pieces in the museum's collection, and is doing her own research on a piece to present in connection with her sculpture.

"The art work is pretty amazing. It is top notch," said Sharp of the final student presentations he has seen in the past. "The level of research they are able to find out and able to relate to the audience is really impressive."

Sharp, as Siminski's advisor, has helped her compile her research and guide her in her creation.

"I'm glad she did sculpture," Sharp said. "She could have just as easily done a painting. I think it is the best fit."

Siminski plans to attend an art school upon graduating from Century this spring. Her experience in the seminar, she believes, will be an advantage.

"The experience … will definitely help," Siminski said. "It's a good start before I get to college."

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