Public art at Capistrano Valley High School mirrors student pandemic experiences

By Cathi Douglas  

Striving young artist Holland Allebes Anderson adores interacting with giant-sized public art installations.

Thus, Allebes Anderson jumped at the opportunity to create some impressive, large-scale, avant-garde works of her own on the campus of her school, Capistrano Valley High.

Her most recent work is displayed in the school mall. It’s a full-sized, three-dimensional, accurate recreation of a student’s bedroom, complete with record album art on the walls, colorful decorations, and various ephemera of high-school student life. It morphs day by day as in real life, with discarded clothing, dirty dishes, and other items haphazardly strewn about.

Principal John Misustin calls Allebes Anderson a “brilliant artist” whose work he first noticed during a campus festival called Quadcella, for which she’d designed a huge, multi-dimensional backdrop of jeans and other pairs of pants that she gathered from friends and thrift stores. She followed that up with a large, multi-dimensional exhibit for a senior event that incorporated different-sized pieces of lumber depicting ‘21,’ their graduation year.

Misustin was so impressed that he invited her to create whatever other large public art she wanted to display in the high school’s public spaces.

In response, he says, “she and her friends created a student room to symbolize where much of their school time was spent during the pandemic. She is very thoughtful in her approach to art. This pop-up display in our mall shows her creativity and ingenuity.”

A standout, multi-talented, high-achieving student who’s involved in the broadcast journalism program, is a member of the lacrosse team, and active in various Advanced Placement classes, Allebes Anderson is friendly and outgoing, Misustin notes.

Those qualities helped her motivate several other students who helped mount the current installation. Emilie Roper, an experienced set designer who’s been active in theater arts productions, helped develop the concept and directed all of the building, and Linda Krellner and Chris Van Patten built the room.

“I wanted to make something striking, eye-catching, and thought-provoking,” Allebes Anderson says.

“This is something that people can relate to; it’s not abstract, and there was enough time for me to get it done so that people can enjoy it,” she adds. The bedroom “has been our classroom. It’s built on a stage rather than the floor to represent that our living space has been our stage and others can see what our home life is.”

“The room shows the uncomfortable way we’ve had to learn, the weirdness of it all during the pandemic,” she says.

As the days have passed, other students have suggested ways to continue to develop the art installation with items that represent students’ new growth and experiences, such as adding boxes to represent students moving off to attend college.

“I love walking by the piece and seeing other students’ reactions, seeing them reading the inscription on the piece,” she says. “Teachers have seen the excitement and have asked about it. This kind of thing has never been done here before, and I haven’t heard about any other high school where this has been done.”

“It’s pretty exciting to be part of something pioneering,” she adds. “It’s my favorite thing to create these big pieces that are collaborative and connect with the audience.”

“This piece shows all of our experiences this year; we can connect with the art and each other,” she said.

Allebes Anderson’s brother, Dane, 21, has created installations for bands and music festivals such as Desert Hearts and Lightning in a Bottle.

“I’ve drawn inspiration from him and his style,” she says. “Seeing what he has done firsthand has motivated me to do more of this.”

Her father, Orell Anderson, a sculptor and artist, is proud of her work and her mother, Frances Allebes, has encouraged her art, Allebes Anderson says.

“When I see public works of art, I get excited,” she observes. “I definitely see incorporating art and landscape design into my future.”

“You don’t really know what your career path is until you test it out and see what it’s like. It’s a path I’d love to pursue,” she adds.

And she is: Allebes Anderson plans to attend Brigham Young University in the fall as a landscape architecture and design major.

“That encompasses all that I’m skilled in and passionate about,” she notes. “I’m passionate about solving the problems of space and creating positive spaces for everyone to enjoy.”

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