Lights, cameras, fantastical creations

CREATIVE ART: Feilding High School Wearable Arts, students creating art work, including Hattie Patching, 16.
CREATIVE ART: Feilding High School Wearable Arts, students creating art work, including Hattie Patching, 16.

From small beginnings to becoming an event that is anything but small, Feilding High School's wearable arts awards, Evento, has evolved, spread its wings and is about to land at Manfeild Park Stadium again. Carly Thomas talks to organisers and students about the show that has become bigger than them.

G ood old Kiwi No 8 wire ingenuity is alive and well at Feilding High School. So are a bit of thinking big, a lot of enthusiasm and an event that has students all fired up.

Evento is the school's wearable arts showcase, the biggest event of the year, in fact one of Feilding's most anticipated shows. It has been running for 18 years and it has become iconic.

Entries from the region's secondary schools culminate in a competition that is hotly contested, with five categories ranging from Amazon to Dr Seuss.

Evento's proportions have not always been large. The event has grown from small beginnings, a fundraiser in the school hall initiated in 1996 by the Parent Teachers Association to encompass the students' sewing.

It grew, found a new home at Feilding's Civic Centre with space for 1000 people and then it grew some more; the Evento creature had sprouted wings. It needed more space and Manfeild Park Stadium, with space for 2000, has just the right monster dimensions required.

Evento committee member and general big thinker Amanda Street says it has taken on a life of its own.

"Evento is not just a high school show any more, people come from all over. We start organising the next show straight after the last show, it has gotten huge. [Feilding High School principal] Roger Menzies took a big leap of faith with us, letting us move to Manfeild, but it has paid off, I think."

Street looks sideways at her daughter Holly Norris, an ex Feilding High School student turned illustrator, who is also heavily involved in Evento, and laughs.

Norris rolls her eyes, smiling. She has been on her OE in Japan and has come home especially to help out. "It just kind of started growing and didn't stop. It's great though."

Her mum agrees: "It's a beautiful thing." Beautiful, in an off the wall, wacky and downright outrageous kind of a way.

Students spend hours imagining, designing and making their creations. They experiment with recycled materials and techniques, pushing boundaries to make something clever, inspired and sometimes jaw dropping.

Street says the quality has become outstanding and they put a high benchmark on standards.

"The students really step up and we are amazed at what they produce. It is really inspiring. We have had to put a few guidelines in place as things started to get really big. The students seemed to get this idea that only big creations win. So now we say they must fit through the door easily."

Competition is fierce among schools and although some of the work is done in school time as part of the art and design curriculum, many hours are spent working on the details in the students' own time.

Design students in Dennis Pearce's class have been haunting the classroom lately, making large wooden steles (upright pillars) to be used in the opening category reserved for Feilding High School students titled, Lore. The category is Celtic-inspired and the steles are a moody and mystical backdrop. The students are using design and carving techniques that were foreign to them last term, but in the weeks building up to the event using a chisel has become second nature.

Year 12 student Jessie Richardson says she had never done anything like it before.

"It's a cool experience, finding different techniques. Some parts are tricky but it gets easier as you get better."

The students won't be in the running for an award for their scene setters but they will get the chance of a cash injection after Evento when six of the steles will be bought for permanent displays at the Manawatu Scottish Society.

From handmade steles to homemade talent, dancers and drama groups will help add the extra wow factor that Evento has become known for. Head of drama Karla Crofts says students picked for their can-do attitude and character will be essential in transitioning categories, filling gaps and creating added interest.

Year 13's Cheyenne Ward says she loves being involved and being a quick thinker helps.

"We have to work around what happens on stage, so nothing is really set, we just fill in. You are under pressure and you get a lot of adrenaline. It's a really big stage and you are in front of a big audience."

Lighting technicians, design, music, even the catering are all driven by an army of students. Back-stage, parking, co-ordinating, the involvement is huge, and there are jobs for the creative and the not so creative. There is, of course, some pretty good backup too; busy, dedicated teachers and parents working away behind the scenes and secretly loving it as much as the students.

Head of technology Michelle Wilson is another key planner of the event and the drama group is her thing and it would seem storage, another; she has costumes all over her house and in her roof. Street has a Noddy car and a Policeman Plod car in her garage. The Evento creature isn't just taking over Manfeild Park Stadium for a night, it lives and breathes in Feilding.

Norris says her mum is definitely obsessed and stressed, "but she loves it and she has made it so big that she will have to do it forever".

PE teacher Jemma Lawton has also been pinned under the claws of Evento, sorting out the music and the big task of choreography for the models.

"I love it, it is student-led as much as possible and I love watching the kids blossom. I have done this for about the last seven years and it is a bit of a mission but it is fabulous. The whole hype leading up to it, it's a performance with wow factor."

It is also an event that has planted a seed into students who have competed in the past and have gone on to follow a design path. Street says Jasmine Shadbolt, an ex-Awatapu High School student who won the Supreme Award in 2012, is a perfect example.

"The fact that everyone went big after 2012 was her fault, she set a benchmark. She is a great advocate for the show, she was so involved and emailed us every step of the way with her progress."

Shadbolt went on from high school to study design at Toi Whaakari New Zealand Drama School and is in her second year. She has come full circle and will be the judge for the recycling prize at this year's Evento.

And the creations for this year? Well, they are all under wraps, hidden in garages and the back rooms of art departments all over Manawatu. They are quirky creatures waiting to pounce and feathered fantasies ready to take flight. Students are highly secretive about exactly what will be on offer, but the wonderful monster that is Evento is waiting in the wings and will surely deliver some wows on the night.

Evento Wearable Arts Awards will be held at Manfeild Park Stadium on August 16.

Manawatu Standard