It’s not every day a local artist receives attention for their work – especially one who is currently still in high school. But Bert Church High School Grade-12 student Keegan Karlsen caught the eye of Alberta University of the Arts faculty, taking the top prize at the university’s Show Off! competition in March.
The event included entries from students across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nunavut, North West Territories and Yukon. But Karlsen’s work stood out, winning him free tuition for one year at the school.
“It was nice to be able to prove it to myself and my family,” Karlsen said. “My parents always told me I was pretty good at it, ever since I was little. I didn’t start to believe them until I was about 14.
“I started to take it more seriously and just kept working harder and harder on improving my skills and ideas, because that was the time I decided that this was something I wanted to do as my career.”
Karlsen has been attending Bert Church since his family moved to Airdrie in 2016, and said the high school is where his art was able to accelerate. He stood out to some of his teachers, especially his art teacher, Lisa Tschritter.
According to Tschritter, Karlsen has always earned top marks in her class. She said his art has always been good, but recently, he has begun revealing himself as an artist.
“He's not working at a high-school-student [level], who's just really good. He's working at a professional level,” Tschritter said. “He knows his craft. He's comfortable with these mediums.”
It’s hard for Karlsen to explain his artistic style, he said, as it is constantly evolving. His teacher describes it as a combination of artistic influences and his capability to conjure up ideas.
For Tschritter, it’s enjoyable to teach a student as talented as Karlsen.
“It’s easy,” she said, “because I don't know if I have to actually teach [him]. I just support him.”
According to Karlsen, the support from his art teacher and his family has been amazing. He added Tschritter is regularly sending him emails and information about upcoming art shows.
At the Show Off! competition, Karlsen said he received praise and advice from the university’s teachers and is excited to attend the university, learn new things and take his art to the next level.
“I’m one step closer,” he said. “I got some recognition for something I worked hard for.”