Art students at a Cape Coral high school had the opportunity to visit with a three-time Olympian who began sculpting many years ago due to the athletic connection he experienced.
Mariner High School was among nine schools that received a special visit from an Olympic athlete and artist Thursday. Ten Olympians made their way around the county to share their stories of being an athlete and an artist through an education outreach program with the Art of the Olympians.
Carla Ulakovic, communication director for the Art of the Olympians, said the education outreach program component is part of a grand celebration this weekend, which has an overall theme of igniting inspiration and the overall suit of excellence.
“It is meant to get the kids excited about something in life,” Ulakovic said about the athletes sharing their stories. It is about showing the students that if “I want this I am going to do my best and push myself to the limits,” she said.
The outreach program provides a positive role model for the students because the athletes provide encouragement for the arts, along with showing them that “maybe I can do that.”
Three-time biathlon Olympian Martin Hagen visited Mariner High School from Jackson, Wyoming Thursday morning as part of the Art of the Olympians education outreach program. He explained that an advertisement for a call to artists who are former Olympians caught his eye, which brought him to Fort Myers to visit classrooms for the first time through the program.
Hagen participated in the the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympic games for cross country skiing and rifle shooting.
“It opened a lot of doors and took me to a lot of different places,” he said about the Olympics.
The first classroom that he visited Thursday was Stephan Frank’s visual arts advanced placement art studio class. This gave Hagen with the opportunity to interact with some of the students, along with sharing his journey of becoming an athlete and artist.
Hagen told the students that as an athlete, it is about preparation, talent, focus and performance, which he found is the same for an artist as well. After spending 15 years as an athlete he began sculpting in the early ‘80s with clay and wax, which is then turned into bronze.
There is a “close connection with athletic endeavor and the arts,” he said, which he contributes to going through life as a feeling. Hagen said if something does not feel right to him, he does not pursue it as much.
Hagen told the students to always continue on with their talent because there will always be disappointments and hurdles as an artist.
“Don’t give up because things like artwork can go with you wherever you go,” he said.
Hagen told the class that working with Art of the Olympians is a marvelous opportunity to exchange notes and have some venue to share artwork.
Mariner Principal Brian Mangan said he saw Thursday’s event as a unique life experience for all of those involved.
“Martin Hagen demonstrates what it means to be a well-rounded person that has succeeded in multiple ventures, in short he is a great example for our students,” he said. “I appreciate the Art of the Olympians organization for including Mariner High School.”
Senior Emily Varner, a student in the advanced placement art studio class at Mariner High School explained information about the class to Martin Hagen, a three-time Olympian and sculptor and liaison for the Art of the Olympians Ted Dickey Thursday morning.