The late West High art teacher Susan Dolan encouraged her students to work hard when the cause is right.
Likely no one would be prouder than Dolan that her students took the initiative to honor her by setting up a memorial scholarship for West High art students.
Former students and fellow artists pitched in to create and donate artwork inspired by Dolan’s colorful painting style to sell Friday night at West High.
In front of the student gallery that Dolan built up from nothing, Friday’s auction will include more than 30 pieces, most of them created since Dolan died of cancer in April. And the art just keeps coming. Kiah Abbey, a 2009 West High graduate who has spearheaded the Sue Dolan Memorial Art Auction, said she was floored with the response.
“I was taken aback,’’ Abbey said. “I was worried that we would only have my piece and a couple of others. We already have over 20 pieces and by Friday, we’ll have 10 or 15 more.”
The art runs the gamut from a print donated by noted Billings and Hardin artist Harry Koyama, along with jewelry, paintings, and an altered book by Dolan’s former student Katherine Jore. Jore, who took two art classes from Dolan before she graduated from West High in 2002, added a raven to her piece because it was Dolan’s spirit animal. Dolan put a raven in almost every piece she created.
“She was one of those teachers who really loved her job and got involved,” said Jore, who now works at The Billings Gazette. “She treated students like adults and held us accountable, but she never talked down to us.”
West High guidance counselor Jim Boyle said he doesn’t know how Dolan pulled it off when she got the funding and the space to establish an art gallery at West High several years ago.
“She found a room that didn’t get a lot of use and that’s tough to do around West High,” Boyle said. “And she got her way.”
Boyle said Dolan’s legacy was inspiring students to follow their passion, and if that was art, to go for it. Because art institutes are expensive, the scholarship money will help more students follow their dream.
Brittney Levang, who has taken Dolan’s place teaching art at West High, did her student teaching under Dolan in 2008 and Dolan taught her one valuable lesson.
“She always just said, ‘Put your passion into your lessons and they will be successful.’ ”