Artist fosters young talent

A two-year after-school art class will be launched again in Blenheim for secondary school students wanting to extend themselves.

Led by professional artist Mieke Hilhorst and partly funded by the Marlborough District Council's creative communities local arts scheme, it will not start until term two but applications are being accepted.

Hilhorst, who is also a St Mary's Youth Group co-ordinator, launched her programme, How Great Thou Art, in 2011 and says the results were fantastic. Last week, four of her former students - Joe Peart, Kane Wills, Alex Radford and Charlotte Cook - were at her home studio to support that claim.

The year 12 students said the work they did with Hilhorst enhanced the art lessons they were doing in school.

"I have done art every year" at college, Charlotte says. Hilhorst's programme "really broadened my outlook on how to use different mediums".

Kane says, "It helped me with the theory work. I learned words like ‘shellac', which I probably wouldn't otherwise have known." Shellac, he adds, is a medium applied to finished works to create a sheen.

Joe says, "Kind of like painting egg whites on bread."

Held in St Mary's parish hall, the first year's art classes introduce students to different styles of painting, art theory, conceptual art and include visits to galleries and artists working in their private studios.

"At the end of the year they have a fair idea of what they like to do. The second year is a mini version of what [students] do at tertiary level," Hilhorst says.

Each student is given a brief and they use that to produce a set of works in the style they favour to exhibit at the end of the year.

"I just help each individual person for what they are doing. Some people find that easy and like self-directed learning. Some need more help - and others change their mind a hundred times," she says.

The exhibition at the end of 2012 was a great way of ending the two-year programme. No course was held last year, students concentrating instead on their NCEA studies at school. Hilhorst, who made a point of seeing each one's art portfolios, was impressed with their results.

She holds a a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and says her course is aimed at helping students interested in pursuing an art career.

Secondary school students interested in the course can obtain application forms and more information about the programme starting this year through her website,, or by phoning Hilhorst on 027 749 919.

The Mirror