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Portrait of a graduate

Naomi Faith Smith in one of her favorite haunts, the jewelry studio at Bainbridge High School. She plans to use her recently awarded  Bainbridge Arts and Crafts scholarship for “tons and tons of art goodness.”  Smith (below) doing with a drill.    - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Naomi Faith Smith in one of her favorite haunts, the jewelry studio at Bainbridge High School. She plans to use her recently awarded Bainbridge Arts and Crafts scholarship for “tons and tons of art goodness.” Smith (below) doing with a drill.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Naomi Smith took every single art class BHS had to offer, and some that it didn’t.

Anyone remember the 1978 poster of Portland, Ore., mayor Bud Clark flashing a nude statue?

“Expose yourself to art,” the caption read.

For many people, that entails an occasional trip to the museum or a Friday gallery walk. But the work of 18-year-old Naomi Faith Smith gives new meaning to the phrase.

By the time Smith graduates this afternoon, she will have completed every studio art course that Bainbridge High School has to offer, along with many that it doesn’t.

With joy, angst and a cheerful but matter-of-fact intensity, Smith has tackled drawing, painting, glasswork, metalwork, jewelry, masks, pottery, architectural ceramics...the list goes on.

“I’ve never found something that I couldn’t do,” she said.

During a three-week period in May, Smith collected four island arts honors including a top jewelry award in the BHS art show, third prize in the color digital category at the Washington state high school photography competition and “best in show” at a recent Bainbridge Arts and Crafts competition along with a $2,000 scholarship.

Smith plans to use the money, which BAC added to its scholarship program this spring, “for tons and tons of art goodness.”

Or as she explains more practically, to help cover the “excessively expensive” studio and materials fees she’ll encounter at the Evergreen State College, where she plans to pursue art and environmental studies this fall.

Smith didn’t have a cushy childhood. Her mom, whom she describes as “artistic and groovy and wonderful,” influenced and encouraged her art. But the family struggled financially and emotionally with the failure of a business venture.

“Living on Helpline for 10 years of my life was hard,” Smith said.

And the “negative, creepy environment” of her young childhood, followed by her parents’ divorce, created a domestic scene that she escaped through art.

Then, as now, Smith used cheap and readily available objects like popsicle sticks, charcoal and daisy chains, a strategy her Blakely Elementary School art teacher nurtured.

But a clash of wills between Smith and her middle-school art teacher squelched her confidence. Then she started high school on a low note, just days after the death of her de facto stepfather.

“I was moody and I hated everything,” Smith said. “I couldn’t get over anything. I was terrible to be around.”

She channeled her anger in drawing class, but she also followed an urge to seek out artistic adults.

A life drawing course at the Bainbridge Art Center exposed her to a new caliber of students and reminded her how much joy could come of art.

She described the model as a “crazy British lady” who sang songs and cracked jokes about her overweight, aging body as she struck beautiful poses.

“I just got so much expression out of that,” she said. “It was something I hadn’t felt for a long time.”

After that, Smith worked her way through the BHS curriculum and studied at other schools like the Pratt Fine Art Institute in Seattle as well as the Eagledale Park pottery studio and the Tacoma Clay Art Center.

Smith’s artistic goals shift every couple of years; she gets what she can out of her medium of the moment and carries that knowledge to new endeavors.

“I like something, then find something I like even more,” she said. “Being an Aries, change has to happen as frequently as possible in my life.”

Artist Sally Robison, one of the BAC competition judges, said she was struck by the student’s high level of motivation to study outside BHS parameters as well as her versatility with various media.

“She just was an all-around accomplished artist,” Robison said. “Her work had a certain depth to it that was very impressive.”

Smith’s BAC winner is a necklace called “Zodiac Birth,” a copper, silver and brass construction of hollow discs, each with a separately fashioned, personally significant symbol melded to its center. She undertook what she calls her “most massive endeavor” as a birthday present to herself.

As she cut, soldered, and manipulated the pieces against the edge of her work table, Smith suffered cuts that wouldn’t heal because metal kept getting into them.

She didn’t mind.

“Although metal can be bloody, it’s still this beautiful thing,” she said. “It’s never stressful...it takes my mind off everything.”

Smith’s typically diverse summer plans will include designing costumes for the upcoming Camp Teen Broadway production of “Les Miserables” for the BPA Theatre School; heading to England to participate in a World War II-related cross-cultural research project; and keeping her eye out for found objects that she can spend the least amount of money on, whether it’s textile, driftwood or a string of copper wire.

“I do bounce around in my different mediums,” Smith said. “But I’ll never bounce out of art.”

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Goodbye to school

Seven years ago, they were the first class at Sakai Intermediate School.

Over the past two weeks, they watched the core of their current campus be demolished.

Now, 378 seniors will say their official goodbye to Bainbridge High School. The graduation ceremony begins today at 4 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. School officials previously said inclement weather would force the event indoors to the school gym, but the number of students participating has grown too large for that.

Because parking is limited, the school is offering shuttle service from Bethany Lutheran Church beginning at 2:30 p.m. Service will resume after the ceremony and continues until 7 p.m.

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