As the Anthropocene progresses and climate change continues to rear its head, wonders that once were will continuously be lost. In the past decade alone we lost Bramble Cay melomys and Bahama nuthatches, while the Sumatran Rhino may not be far behind.
Though societal change may be motivated by a fear of ecological loss, it may also be inspired by the beauty in what we still have. That sort of celebration of life is just what the next generation of Jackson’s ecologically minded artists have to offer in their upcoming, and entirely student-curated, exhibition.
Starting Sunday, the National Museum of Wildlife Art will host “Bioluminescence: A Jackson Hole High School Student-Curated Exhibit.” The exhibition, which will run through March 8, will feature works of art by students that celebrate the remarkable biological phenomenon of bioluminescence.
High school art teacher Shannon Borrego said the program has been carried out for three years by students in her advanced high school art class, but this year it was by the newly formed National Arts Honor Society Club.
“The new club is truly remarkable,” Borrego said. “They’ve already created ornaments for the governor’s mansion and puppets for Public Art’s Glow Festival.”
The Wildlife Art Museum’s associate curator of education and outreach, Lisa Simmons-Jordan, said the high school curated exhibitions in the past three years have largely been heavyhearted, focusing mostly on species extinction and climate change.
“But this year is different,” Simmons-Jordan said. “This year is about celebrating the beauty of bioluminescence, the beauty of the sorts of life that we don’t see because they’re underground or deep in the sea. And to be clear, we didn’t choose that wonderful theme, it was the students.”
One of the high school curators of Bioluminescence is Jackson Hole High School junior Leilani Johnson.
“The purpose of the exhibit is to display exotic animals and the whole hidden world of bioluminescence that is rarely considered in Jackson Hole,” she said.
Of all the pieces that will be displayed, Johnson said she’s most excited for the glow worm cave, which “will be open for people to walk through and make the exhibit feel more interactive.”
Another one of the high school curators, Ally Smith, said people should expect a heavy dosage of black lights, neon colors and dark paints.
“The whole exhibit will be glowing,” she said.
What the exhibit is really about is “remembering all of the cool animals in the world that often go unnoticed,” said Brooklyn McCooey.
“It’s really rare, you know,” Simmons-Jordan said. “Most museums of our size would never consider creating a collaboration like this, but we’re really committed to supporting students and cultivating a lifelong commitment to art.”
Simmons-Jordan said the museum is treating the exhibition in the same way it would any professional program.
“They write all their own labels for the pieces, and we print them, just like we would with professional artists,” Simmons-Jordan said. “The quality of the exhibition has been so high in the past that a few years ago we actually had someone purchase a piece right off the museum wall.”
With artistic quality remaining the same, the only difference in this year’s exhibition will be its intention to remind our community to celebrate the beauty and inexplicable mystery of life. ￼