Kiel Johnson’s Wondrous Vision of the World


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“A good idea happens while you are working on a bad idea,” said Keil Johnson as the stellar advice he would like to get across to aspiring artists. It is human nature to get in a spiral of consuming thoughts that hinder creativity, and Johnson’s number one golden rule for artists, he said, is to just “get started” and the ideas will flow through experimentation.

Johnson shared with The Willistonian about how he embarked on his journey as an artist.

Johnson grew up in a household where everyone was constantly “working with their hands.” His father worked for a newspaper in the eighties and the process back then heavily involved in crafts.

“My dad was a writer, and in the eighties they were really cutting and pasting and X-ACTO Knife instead of typing on a machine,” Johnson said.

His mother was constantly knitting, crocheting, firing a hot glue gun. Johnson’s parents were always “supportive” for his passion for art and permitted him to do whatever that made him “happy.”

Besides having encouraging parents, the person that transformed his entire life was his art teacher, Pal Wright, during high school in Kansas.

“I would probably be in jail without him, because I was a big trouble maker,” he joked.

During his visit at Williston, the arts department allocated time for students to come to the studio to make trophies to award themselves for an accomplishment.

Senior Chloe Prouty came to the Studio on Friday Jan. 24 during study hall to make a trophy of the mascot of the college she will be attending this fall.

“I made the mascot, the Pioneer of Utica College,” she said.

Chloe will be running at Utica College, and competing in the same league as her sister, Sophia Prouty ’19, currently running Cross Country and Track and Field at Saint John Fisher, hence the reason it is “really important” to her.

After spending hours building her trophy and painting the mascot, she said she felt “accomplished.”

A recurring memory from Johnson’s high school day’s is seeing trophies stuffed in a case. He emphasized how trophies were exclusively a high school athletic tradition of sharing a school’s accomplishments.

“Most trophies represent a team accomplishment, and I thought it would be really great to build our own trophy case with art kids.” He further explained his vision for students: “ I just wanted to build an installation, I wasn’t looking for who could build the best trophy or anything, if there are twenty trophies, twenty people participated, I just wanted the trophies to symbolize this week.”

In the process of deciding what their trophy would celebrate, Johnson encouraged students to visualize their life.

“I did want people to think about their personal accomplishments, goals, ambitions and something to look forward to in the future,” Johnson said.

Elsa Frankel ’23 titled her work, “The Best Blueberry Trophy.”

Elsa took Johnson piece of advice into account and created her trophy to celebrate her accomplishment of her first job as a blueberry harvester.

“It represent the blueberry farm that my family goes to almost every weekend,” Elsa said. “Once I harvested fourteen pounds of blueberries.”

“These projects are also about collaboration and everybody makes this little something and we all create a bigger, beautiful piece together,” Johnson said.

Johnson elaborated on the practical application of working together to create something of significance.

“If everybody can work together, be giving, caring, and creative in their own space, then we would have such a beautiful planet,” Johnson explained.

Visual and Performing Arts Teacher Wendy Staples shared her nostalgic feelings of being back in the studio with Johnson creating art.

“It feel good to be back in the studio to be working as an artist,” she said.

Staples appreciates Johnson’s “wonder” for the world, as his work is mainly based on experimentation.

“His work does not aim for perfection,” Staples said, “it’s more about the process and keeping your hands busy.”