Howard County Times

Howard art students showcase multitude of personal styles, voices at annual senior and junior exhibition

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A kaleidoscope of oil, acrylic, ceramics and twine filled the Howard County Public School System’s Central Office in Ellicott City this month for the 33rd Annual Senior Show and Junior Portfolio Development Exhibition.

“There’s so much awesome, amazing stuff,” said Howard High School senior Sophia Adles, 17. “It’s like, ‘wow,’ I can’t believe somebody made this, somebody who’s my age ... It’s really inspiring.”


Adles is one of more than 30,000 students enrolled in visual arts classes in the county this year as part of a program that emphasizes interdisciplinary exploration and creative freedom.

“Artists nowadays work in a multitude of materials and they work in materials that best communicate their ideas and so our program has really aligned with and helped to foster that philosophy,” said fine arts coordinator Gino Molfino, who oversees HCPSS dance, theater and visual arts. “The success that we’ve had with students that matriculate through our program has been pretty substantial.”


Similar to its dance program, Howard doesn’t offer discipline-based art courses such as sculpture or painting. Instead, HCPSS art classes are comprehensive and meant to expose students to a range of master artists and techniques, from pastels to digital media.

“It’s really nice because I’m able to explore whatever I want,” Adles said. “I don’t feel like for an entire year I’m learning how to make pottery. I can do spray paint and then I can make some structures and then [be] like, ‘Let’s learn oil painting.’”

After learning foundational skills in Art I and II, high school students embark on portfolio development in Art III and IV during which they develop their body of work and defend pieces with artist’s statements.

The diversity of styles and personal voices was on full display at the junior and senior exhibition, open through May 17. Adles’ piece, “Pepsi God,” was the culmination of nearly two years of research into the 2008 corporate redesign of Pepsi’s famous red, white and blue circular logo. She was intrigued by how the company sought to mythologize their branding and chose to spray-paint the logo in between celestial bodies in the sky.

“It’s trying to convey how Pepsi puts themselves amongst the gods and the stars,” said Adles, who hopes to continue taking art classes in college next year.

Molfino says the ultimate goal of the visual arts program is to help mold multidisciplinary artists capable of conveying complex ideas through their chosen materials, whether it’s black and white photography or a classic still life.

“There’s no one right answer in art,” he said. “[Students] will be afforded to learn and fail and pick themselves up and try the material again or maybe that material exploration will lead to another one.”

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Centennial High School senior Hannah Chen said she had always been interested in art, but hadn’t considered it as a career path until she began taking higher level courses last year.


“I just kind of realized that I have a capacity for making more complex pieces,” said Chen, 18. “It doesn’t have to just remain a hobby. This can be something more serious for me.”

Hannah Chen, a Centennial senior, poses for a photo next to her artwork during the reception for the annual Junior/Senior Visual Arts Showcase hosted by the Howard County Public School System at the Board of Education building on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

Chen’s showcase piece, “A Stitch in Time,” began as an acrylic painting of her mother and cat but evolved into a visual narrative of Chen’s memories and interactions with physical surroundings. She created both literal and figurative layers of past experiences by adding scraps of old clothes, dried flowers her mother had given her and other objects to the canvas.

“It’s a fun process to cut it all up and paste it together and gradually build the end result,” said Chen, who won a juror’s choice award for her work. “Every time you look at it might be a bit different or something new might stick out to you.”

Chen added that the piece also symbolizes how far she’s come on her own artistic journey once she was given the freedom to explore in high school. After initially gravitating toward ink and paper drawings, she came to embrace mixed media creations, incorporating fabrics and embroidery.

“Rather than kind of creating a restrictive curriculum where you have to create this piece around this theme, I think what really helped me grow is the fact that I was able to explore topics that I was interested in,” Chen said. “There is no one style of art that is for everyone.”

To learn more about visual arts offerings at HCPSS, visit: