Hiblovic '21 Inspires Regional Creative Collective
By Carter Fortman '21, Prep News Editor-in-Chief
In an instant, St. Louis U. High went from a bustling school filled with anticipation for Spring Break 2020 to, like the rest of the U.S., shutdown. Senior Philip Hiblovic, like others, found himself with much time on his hands. Art became an escape for him. With his school workload reduced and many of his other activities slowed, Hiblovic began writing and drawing in the safety of his own home.
He soon realized that even art’s escape left him yearning for more human connection.
“Being an artist myself and in the local scene in general, I’ve made a lot of friends over the years who are also artists – all over the St. Louis area,” Hiblovic reflects. “At the beginning of lockdown, I saw them making more art than ever before with all the extra time they had.”
Wanting to take advantage of the excess art and the community he knew they would bring, he organized 21Artistry, a collective of local teenagers (most from the Class of 2021) committed to showcasing the top artists of the St. Louis community.
“In May, I assembled the group to provide opportunities for support, network and collaboration for all these creatives I loved,” Hiblovic says.
He began with his friend, Carter Fortman ’21, who agreed to join the group as a poet and musician. Other early members of 21Artistry from SLUH joined like musician Alex Unseth ’21. He also recruited from Nerinx Hall, St. Joseph’s Academy, De Smet, MICDS, John Burroughs and Priory.
“The process of creating it was difficult at first since it was such an unprecedented idea,” says Hiblovic. “I told my friend Carter about the idea, and we started reaching out to our friends, and they started reaching out to theirs. We created a group chat and started posting our work on Instagram, and it grew quickly from there.”
In just the first month, the account had surpassed 700 followers, mostly from friends of the group’s members. Posts had been reposted on larger pages including a custom pair of shoes that was featured on the brand Odd Future. This gained them many followers and established them as a significant social media player for students throughout the area.
“It’s not just about us (the members) anymore; it’s about our community,” says Hiblovic. “I would say it’s felt like a movement more than anything. It’s made so many kids care about art who never took the time to appreciate it before.”
After the first month, Hiblovic learned more about how the Instagram algorithm worked and took advantage of his newfound knowledge to grow the page beyond just their friends.
It surpassed 1,000 followers after the first two months and continued to climb. The group added new members as the collective grew. For example, they brought Jack Janson ’24 onboard as a musician and photographer. They also added the local band, the Scamps, whose drummer is Robby Brooks ’21, just days before they released their debut single, Beach Yu, on Spotify.
“Coming to SLUH during a pandemic, it was hard to meet people. But I found that 21Artistry gave me the community I was looking for and allowed me to grow as an artist, musician and photographer.”
- Jack Janson '24
The group found an opportunity to combine their talents into a sector of the collective named “21Artistry Studios” that offered full service photoshoots that included hair, makeup, and custom styling.
“It’s brought people together in ways I never thought possible,” says Hiblovic. “For example, when the Scamps told me they were dropping their merch, I worked with Jack to design it, Ava (Photographer, MICDS ’21) to shoot it and a bunch of our friends to model it. Opportunities for collaboration to that extent didn’t exist before this group.”
“Providing styling and photography services to our customers has been really rewarding,” says Janson. “I long for ways to use my art to benefit others, and 21Artistry is a perfect outlet for that.”
Another favorite memory for Hiblovic happened with Alex Lepper ’21.
“One of my favorites was definitely our photoshoot with Lepper,” says Hiblovic. “Jack Janson shot the photos in Tower Grove Park alongside our friend Ava, Alex Unseth ‘21, and Jacob Sprock ‘21. I loved Alex’s shoot so much because these were his senior photos, and we created a lifelong memory around them that most people don’t get to have. It was super special to all of us.”
The account is well over 2,100 followers and counting. However, Hiblovic has never strayed from his original purpose.
“It has never really been about the numbers for us, but I am glad that we can provide high-quality art to all of those who want it,” says Hiblovic.
For Janson, that mission is precisely why he loves the group.
“The supportive community of 21Artistry is unparalleled,” says Janson. “I’m so happy I met everyone in the group and look forward to our upcoming work.”
While the pandemic has reduced the opportunities for the group, they have big plans ahead.
“Our plan once COVID-19 restrictions loosen is to have a concert with all the musical members of the group,” says Hiblovic. “Including Robert Brooks with the Scamps, Jude Fucetola ’22, Jack Janson and a lot more.”
Jr. Bills who are members of 21Artistry include: Robert Brooks '21, Carter Fortman '21, Jude Fucateola '22, Philip Hiblovic '21, Jack Janson '24, Courtney Lucas '24 and Alex Unseth '21.