The average price tag at Turner Carroll Gallery on Canyon Road runs in the thousands of dollars, but the gallery mounts one show each year where even the largest artworks cost only a few hundred bucks. “Someone came in last year and asked the price of a big canvas, and they were shocked to hear it was $650,” says Tonya Turner Carroll, co-owner of the contemporary art space. “Then I told them it was made by a high school student, which was an even bigger surprise.”
Turner Carroll and her husband, Michael Carroll, established the gallery in 1991 when they were in their 20s. Now they live in Albuquerque and have three children, two of whom attend Albuquerque Academy. In 2015, the institution was ranked the fifth-best private high school in the US by bestcolleges.com. Judging by the caliber of their student artists—a concentration that has fallen by the wayside at public and private secondary schools across the nation—it's easy to see why. Turner Carroll Gallery's third annual Albuquerque Academy Emerging Artists Juried Exhibition, which is slated to open this Friday, is a rare showcase of teenage talent on Canyon Road.
"I feel like the high school population has a particular voice," says Turner Carroll. "It's like its own tribe." The exhibition features over 40 student artists in grades nine through 12, though the school starts at sixth grade. Half of each sale goes to the artist, and the other to the academy's visual arts department. Turner Carroll is particularly keen to support the school because of its commitment to diversity and accessibility: 22 percent of the students receive scholarships that cover part or all of the $22,870 tuition.
"That equates to about $4.1 million a year in financial aid," says Cathy Garber, Albuquerque Academy's director of communications. The school's application process is need-blind, meaning the admissions department isn't told how much financial aid families are requesting until after students are accepted. According to Garber, more than half of the school's students are female, and 51 precent self-identify as people of color.
"This show is a political statement, and a social statement, that different peoples' voices are important," Turner Carroll says. "I'm happy to do it for this school because they embrace that and demonstrate it."
For their part, the featured artists seem just as bewildered about their appearance on Canyon Road as the gallery's customers. Eighteen-year-old Ian Conley, a senior at Albuquerque Academy, won a spot in last year's exhibition and returns with two photographs this year. His uncle is Richard Lampert, owner of Zaplin Lampert Gallery, which is just down the street from Turner Carroll Gallery. "Until last year, I never imagined showing there," says Conley. "I see a lot of really famous people in my uncle's gallery. I'm like, 'I'm hanging out with the best, that's really cool.'"
Conley started taking art classes in eighth grade, and initially focused on painting and drawing. "I would get frustrated because I always wanted to get forms really perfect, so I felt like photography was the way to go," Conley tells SFR. "There's so much more access with photography. You can take a picture of whatever you see." He says Albuquerque Academy feeds his desire to directly interface with the world on a wide array of topics.
The school encourages students to explore fields of knowledge in a similar manner to college freshmen who are picking a concentration. "I just found my way to photography, and I feel like there's not a lot of other schools that allow you to do that," Conley tells SFR. He wants to study engineering in college, but his experience in the academy's visual arts department has solidified his commitment to maintaining an art practice.
Sophie Long, 17, is a senior who also appeared in last year's show, with a wind chime made from her brother's old baseball bats. She set a relatively high price for the sculpture, hoping it wouldn't sell. It didn't. "It reminds me of him whenever I hear it, and it's really nice to have a reminder of him around," says Long. Her brother graduated from Albuquerque Academy two years ago and studies mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Long isn't sure what she'll study in college, but she's not planning on following in her brother's footsteps. For now, she's focused on a series of sculptures for her AP concentration. "My idea is to put comical or surreal twists on everyday objects, so you see them differently," she says. "I have a shower head with hair coming out of it. Everybody hates it so much, it's so funny."
One of Long's contributions to the Turner Carroll show is a push broom with a rainbow of crayons in place of its bristles. She got the idea when her art teacher, Timothy Mullane, showed her the school's vast archive of stubby Crayolas. "I was like, 'I want to draw with all of these at once,'" she says. "Mr. Mullane is very excited to help us figure out exactly what vision we want to work towards, which can be really difficult sometimes. Every once in a while, we get ideas that involve abilities or materials that aren't really accessible."
For the crayon challenge, the sculptural broom was Long's charming solution. She wants to bring this approach to real-world problem solving as she leaves high school. "It's really nerve-wracking, actually, to look at the state our society is in," Long says. "It's really going to be a challenge for everybody to find a way to accept other peoples' differences. People need to know that someone will stand up for them."
Fresh perspectives on the world abound in the Turner Carroll show in mediums including video, painting, photography and sculpture. "I want to show as many people as I can what young people are able to communicate through art," says Turner Carroll, "if they're given the opportunity to learn the skills."
Albuquerque Academy Emerging Artists Juried Exhibition Opening Reception
5 pm Friday Feb. 24. Free.
Turner Carroll Gallery,
725 Canyon Road,