Friday Harbor High School graduate Olivia Meenan has shaped her future by hand — literally. Meenan graduated this past spring and is one of the few students out of thousands whose advanced placement art portfolio received recognition.
Her portfolio, which had the theme of adoption, caught the eye of not only the AP judges but the Oregon State University board as well.
“It’s a really big deal,” FHHS art teacher Andrew Anderson said. “There are over 60,000 portfolios that they [the judges] are looking at, so they are saying out of all of those portfolios, this one stands out.”
AP classes are held all over the world, said Anderson.
Olivia’s mother, Karen Meenan, said that Olivia has always had great spatial skills, hand-eye coordination, and a knack for art.
“Even as a child I would buy her the advanced lego kits and she’d still put them together very quickly,” Karen Meenan explained.
Olivia Meenan kept at this skill as she said she has loved building things for as long as she could remember.
“When she got into high school, things really opened up for her. Mr. Anderson has put together a phenomenal art program. Every year there are people who win national or state awards,” Karen Meenan said. “Sure, they’re the ones doing all the work, but he’s the mentor and never ever underestimate the role of a mentor.”
After first teaching in Oklahoma, Anderson moved to San Juan Island in 2009. He went back to visit Oklahoma this summer. During his time there he visited some old colleagues who had just finished their summer AP training.
“There was Olivia’s portfolio being used as an example to teach them how to teach the subject and how a portfolio is supposed to look,” he said.
Meenan isn’t the only student of Anderson’s that has produced notably excellent work. In his 22 years of teaching, he’s had three students at Friday Harbor have their portfolios chosen along with one student back in Oklahoma.
Friday Harbor High School principal Martin Yablonovsky said of Anderson, “In my 20 years of education I’d have to say he is the best art teacher I’ve ever seen.” Yablonovsky has worked in multiple districts in both Alaska and Utah.
Yablonovsky, while visiting the art room over the years, has also taken note of Olivia Meenan’s hard work.
“You could just tell that she enjoyed it,” he said, after observing her work on a project.
Olivia Meenan had been in Anderson’s class since her freshman year of high school, but it wasn’t until halfway through her junior year that she began 3D art.
She was one of the few 3D art students that Anderson had.
“I enjoy 3D art because I like to work with my hands more,” Olivia Meenan said. “I’m not too interested in realistic art.”
Making 3D art on San Juan Island could be difficult at times, especially during a pandemic, as resources are not as readily available. There is also no art store on the island. Her portfolio was competing with other students that may have had easy access to art stores and materials, yet her work prevailed.
“Having less resources definitely made me more creative, resourceful, and conservative,” she said.
With abstract 3D art, Meenan said she was able to express more things, such as her theme of adoption. She used architectural themes as metaphors, such as doorways, stairs, and windows, to represent growth.
Meenan will continue to explore her artistic abilities through the architecture program at the University of Oregon.
Anderson said he is excited that she has made this decision, as she can apply her eye for aesthetics to the physics and math involved with architecture.
“When it comes to those buildings, you know, those iconic buildings that define cities, that needs an art background,” said Anderson. “I hope we can someday walk through a famous building she designed and be like, ‘Wow, we knew her.’”