Art Club Comes Back Strong with Milwaukee Zoo Christmas Exhibit

By Rylie Albert, Current Staff

After the club’s disappearance in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the West Bend High Schools’ art club is back, stronger than ever, and filled with holiday spirit.

Led by Mickiah Wolff and Deb Prahl, the WBHS art teachers, the revitalized art club worked on decorating an Arctic-themed Christmas tree to display at the Milwaukee County Zoo for its annual Fantastic Forest Project, which opened Thursday. Christmas trees made by area youth groups are now available for viewing at the zoo from 9:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. every day until Dec. 31, with the exception of Christmas Day.

The foundations of the high school art club began with Wolff while she was teaching at Decorah Elementary. Students had to try out to be in art club, with only the top 20 students being chosen. This young artists program was extremely active in community events around Washington County.

“I had this select group of kids that I gave everything to, from extra art projects, to displaying at different areas, to working on various Christmas trees around the community,” Wolff said. 

Now at the high school, Wolff still hopes to do big things. Participation remains arge, with about 30 students attending the open studios every Thursday after school.

The club kicked off the school year at the homecoming parade in October. Members made cardboard cut-outs of stick figure faces to match their giant pencils.

The WBHS art club walks in the homecoming parade on Oct. 7. Photo courtesy of Mickiah Wolff.

Right now all energy is focused on the Fantastic Forest Event at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Through the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, youth groups around the Milwaukee area were each given a different animal-related theme from which to decorate a Christmas tree. The theme given to the WBHS art club was Polar Party. At their Nov. 17 meeting, the club put the finishing touches on the life-size bears and seals they planned to display around the tree. In addition, countless handmade ornaments were assembled to look like snow.

So what does the future hold for art club?

“We started a more personal and abstract project,” West junior Elly Hunt said about a new plan that involves four daily doodle prompts.

Once the weather warms up again, Wolff and Prahl would also like to expand into more projects around the community such as chalk flash mobs. Wolff also mentioned the possibility of creating a mural outside of the Chocolate Factory.

(Top image: East junior Ethan Schwabe puts the finishing touches on the art club’s Christmas tree at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Photo courtesy of Mickiah Wolff.)

Members of the WBHS art club construct a polar bear to display at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Photo by Rylie Albert, Current Staff.

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