Art for kids’ sakePublished 9:40am Friday, March 15, 2013
After hanging more than a dozen collages in a gallery of the Albert Lea Art Center, Albert Lea High School teacher Robin Brown stood back and admired her students’ work Wednesday afternoon.
“Boy, what color in the room,” she said.
Brown and Raissa Byer, both teachers at the high school, were setting up for the annual Elementary/Secondary Student Art Show at the Art Center, which kicks off with an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. The gallery runs Sunday through April 5, with gallery hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 3 p.m. on March 24.
The student art show is changing a bit this year. Last year, it was held at Northbridge Mall, but this year it will be downtown at the Art Center, 223 S. Broadway Ave.
The show typically draws one of the biggest crowds for an Art Center show, as Art Center Artistic Director Marty Shepard said about 1,500 people attended last year.
“The student artwork is incredible,” she said. “They just do some incredible things.”
For many of the students, this is the first time their work will be displayed in a gallery, which teachers say makes for valuable experience.
“Display is part of the artistic process,” Brown said. “It allows kids to get feedback on their work. It shows the community how important art is, both to the students, but also just to the student’s education. It’s a really big deal.”
Other school groups like the show choir and bands perform concerts; sports teams play in games. But for artists, galleries and displaying their work is just as important.
“This is our big event,” Byer said.
Their work is displayed in schools and in the community throughout the year. At the elementary schools, work is usually posted in the hallways. At the high school, pieces are displayed in cases and in the halls during parent-teacher conferences. Work is also displayed at Brookside Education Center.
The student art has made its way out of school buildings this year, as high school teachers arranged to have a wall at Prairie Wind Coffee downtown where student art is up for about a month.
Outside school buildings, the art show is by far the largest annual display of student work.
Andrea Harves, an art teacher at Hawthorne Elementary and Halverson Elementary, said the event is important for the students.
“It’s huge,” she said. “They think it’s just awesome.”
Harves randomly picks names throughout the year and tries to keep it random and fair.
She said it’s fun to see certain students move on and have their work displayed later in their schooling.
Most of the teachers set aside work from students throughout the first part of the school year. Brown, on the other hand, took pieces from each of her students in two classes.
“I think if we had our way, every single kid would have a piece, but we are really limited on space,” Brown said.
With many students taking classes to prepare for college, Brown said art classes aren’t always a top priority.
“Kids are pulled in a lot of different directions these days, and they’re expected to take a lot of the core classes in the name of getting into college, which is a great thing,” Brown said. “But sometimes until they get their work out and people tell them how good they are, they don’t think about art as the first choice for a career. So this is a real important thing for them.”
Brown and Byer said there are many vibrant careers for artists, from teaching to graphic design and beyond. Even careers that have little to do with art can benefit from artistic training and the creativity it instills.
Even if art doesn’t become a career for a student, Brown said it’s a fulfilling activity for many students.
“In some cases, it truly is the reason they come to school,” Brown said.
The teachers are hoping many people take the time to come out and see the students’ work.
“We’re just excited they get the chance to display in the community and hope that we get a nice turnout for the work,” Byer said, adding that she hopes the community continues to support the art program.
Artist to visit
For the first time in a few years, Albert Lea High School is bringing in a visiting artist to speak to classes.
Gary Harbo is slated to speak to multiple classes at the school on Tuesday. Harbo is a Minnesota native, and he creates and illustrates picture books.
Along with going to the school, he will hold a presentation at the Albert Lea Public Library at 4 p.m. for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. He will draw and teach the children tricks for drawing their own creations.
Harbo’s books are available at the library. His visit is being funded through a grant from the Perpich Center for the Arts.