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Middle school students show off Huichol-style art in WSU exhibit

By Ryan Aston - | May 9, 2024
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A portion of an exhibit featuring Huichol-inspired art, created by students from Mountain Green Middle School, at Weber State University's Shepherd Union Building is pictured Wednesday, May 8, 2024.
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A Huichol-style nierika, created by Mountain Green Middle School student Sienna Horne.
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A Huichol-style nierika, created by Mountain Green Middle School student Livia Covington.
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Mountain Green Middle School will celebrate student art on May 16.

OGDEN — Students from Mountain Green Middle School shared their journey into a new artistic world via an exhibit at Weber State University’s Shepherd Union Building (Suite 321), running through Thursday evening.

The seventh and eighth graders created yarn paintings inspired by those of the indigenous Huichol people of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental range. The artwork was the culmination of a class project for a course created by Marianna Norseth, an art/language teacher and professor for three-plus decades at WSU.

“(Students) had no access whatsoever to multicultural art, so I created the multicultural art class,” Norseth told the Standard-Examiner. “In that class, students get access to explore the world in almost an imaginary travel experience and they learn different techniques from different countries.”

According to Norseth, the nierika yarn paintings of the Huichol were originally intended as ceremonial offerings to bring about a bountiful harvest. Beeswax and resin was used on a board to adhere pieces of yarn. They’re now created using modern materials to craft colorful icons representing religious and cultural beliefs.

Norseth’s students were tasked with telling a story from their lives in their own nierikas, using Huichol symbols. That began with the creation of story panels, after which students made drafts before proceeding to their final projects.

“I’m very proud of them because they did achieve the goal, which was to compare and contrast two cultures,” Norseth said. “They learned the cultural background of the Huichol people to the extent that they mimicked the authentic technique.”

Student nierikas presented a variety of stories and feelings/ideas. One painting — created by Sienna Horne — was about a family trip to Disneyland. It utilized traditional symbols like the sun and moon, stars, flowers, clouds and a butterfly.

Norseth described the class and the Huichol-inspired project as an opportunity for students to expand their horizons.

“Even the parents, when they came in yesterday, they were like, ‘I’ve never seen such a thing. This is amazing,'” Norseth said.

The class is currently working on a stained-glass project hearkening back to the Italian Renaissance, an homage of sorts to Norseth’s own lineage.

“I’m Italian background, even though I was born in Chile. So, I’m a multicultural person myself,” Norseth said. “I delight myself in teaching the history of art from different countries.”

The various projects that Norseth’s multicultural art students have completed throughout the school year will be on display at Mountain Green Middle School’s “Celebrating the Arts Night,” which will take place at the school at 6 p.m. May 16.


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