SHERIDAN — Sara Heili took an interest in drawing as an elementary school student and hasn’t stopped creating.
Heili, a sophomore art student at Sheridan College, went to high school in Casper. When considering which college to pick two years ago, she attended a high school art intensive event at Sheridan College.
After viewing the different options and resources on campus during the event, her decision was clear.
“There were so many different options and different ways of making art,” Heili said. “The world was so much bigger.”
Heili had the opportunity to help students in similar positions Thursday at the same high school art intensive at Sheridan College. The event that began in 2014 showcased the college’s different art offerings and provided the chance for current students and instructors to meet future potential colleagues.
Brittney Denham-Whisonant, Sheridan College printing and photography instructor, said the event has grown in numbers over the years as the college has increased its artistic offerings. This year featured around 150 high school students.
Denham-Whisonant said she and her colleagues aimed to provide a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
“It’s like, ‘Hey come see what we’re about,’” Denham-Whisonant said. “… It’s kind of like this controlled mayhem where everyone’s just like scattered and playing.”
Denham-Whisonant said the most rewarding aspect involved seeing college students like Heili working with high-schoolers on different aspects.
Heili helped high-schoolers from towns including Sheridan, Dayton, Gillette, Kaycee and Broadus, Montana, draw to the sounds of pop music at one of many different stations in the Whitney Center for the Arts. Other options included wax casting, printing, painting and sculpting.
Heili called it a bit of a flashback seeing students in the same position she found herself in two years ago. It excited her to see high-schoolers open up their creativity and try different things beyond normal illustrations or drawings.
For Sheridan High School juniors Tasha Rozman and Madison Smith, Thursday marked their first time attending the event. The high-schoolers enjoyed the relaxed environment and the ability to take in different offerings at their own pace.
Rozman and Smith both appreciate art because it allows them to express themselves creatively.
“It’s kind of like a freedom, because you get to do what you want and express yourself,” Rozman said.
In addition to meeting potential students, Denham-Whisonant said another goal of the event is to increase art awareness in Sheridan County and beyond.
“It is amazing how vibrant our art community is,” Denham-Whisonant said. “I think that’s all of our goals, collectively, is to somehow seep out into the larger community and not make art in a vacuum.”
Denham-Whisonant said Sheridan provides many artistic offerings because of the financial and community support for it.
It also helps to have an aesthetically pleasing setting.
“I think it’s just so beautiful here, like living within a postcard, that I think it breeds people who love beauty in general,” Denham-Whisonant said.
Rozman also said the natural beauty of the area is likely attractive to artists.
Heili mentioned the contributions from notable individual artists in helping advance the art scene locally as well. Her two years at Sheridan College have gone better than she anticipated. She will graduate next month and then attend Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland to study illustration.
Heili said the two years in Sheridan helped prepare her for the next phase.
“It was a good stepping stone,” Heili said. “… I’m a totally different artist and person because of my time here.”
The event served as a way to open doors and broaden creative horizons for students interested in artistic fields.