Lafayette student artists to take centerstage at this Saturday’s annual Student Arts Expo | Education

The annual Student Arts Expo at the Acadiana Center for the Arts is back “in all its glory” this Saturday, with a full slate of live performances, demonstrations and exhibits taking over the arts hub and downtown.

After last year’s scaled back showing, the AcA is excited to welcome the community back to downtown from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to celebrate student creativity and the arts in the Lafayette Parish School System, AcA Executive Director Sam Oliver said.

The Expo will include art across a variety of mediums, from ceramics to portraiture to theater and band performances, on display in the AcA, on several outdoor stages and in 15 businesses and galleries running down Jefferson Street from Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe to Reve Coffee Roasters, he said.

“The purpose of this event, going back 15 years, is to showcase what happens every day and every week inside of the schools that the broader public doesn’t necessarily see, unless it’s family members of those students. Downtown is our stage for the whole community and we like to bring those students out and really celebrate them on the community stage, not just inside of the schools,” Oliver said.

Bree Sargent, the AcA’s education director, said attendees will have the chance to get involved through free hands-on activities led by University of Louisiana at Lafayette art education majors, as well as a student art market and live painting demonstrations, after which the dozen completed works will be for sale in a silent auction.

Bids can be placed in person or via an online auction portal accessible on the AcA’s website, she said.

Sargent said professional artists have worked with the students to make the Expo a practical learning experience. A market artist met with the student sellers to offer tips on pricing, hand selling and displaying their works, while a live painter offered tips on how to navigate creating in real time for an audience.

The bulk of the proceeds from the silent auction will go to the student artists but a cut will go to the AcA to cover the cost of the provided materials, just like professional artists would experience with a gallery, Sargent said.

“We try to really mimic as much as possible what happens as real life as artists,” she said.

Paget Guidry, art, music and media center specialist for LPSS, said students are itching to be able to showcase their talents in person after nearly two years of limited opportunities and mostly virtual events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 3,200 students will participate in the Expo this year, Sargent said.

“When we sent out the request forms at the beginning of the year we got them back immediately. We’ve never had this much response. The teachers are excited because the kids are so excited and it’s infectious,” she said.

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For L.J. Alleman Middle School visual arts teacher Dixie Hundley, this year’s expo is especially exciting because two of her students, Kale Marceaux and Kenya Taylor, are the featured artists for the expo’s poster.

The work titled “Family” was Kale’s brainchild and his planned submission for LPSS’s Winter Arts Competition. The work features Kale and his dog, Princess, in a boat looking at the sunset. The work was inspired by the 12-year-old’s love of being outdoors with his dog, he said.

The day the work was due, Kale was absent from school. He said he wrote off the contest, figuring he’d have to try again next year. Enter his classmate, 11-year-old Kenya. Seeing that Kale’s piece would go unfinished, she asked Hundley if she could complete portions of the coloring and detail work around the boat so his work could be submitted.

“I just wanted to help. I feel like a lot of people need help sometimes,” Kenya said.

When he returned to school, Kale was surprised to learn Kenya had finished his piece and even more surprised when it was later selected as the official expo poster artwork. His art has always been for himself, and he said he never imagined it could go beyond that.

“It feels really good. When they first told me that it won, I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool I guess’ but then people were telling me it was on Facebook and in restaurants and stuff. I feel honored,” he said.

Hundley said arts education is an important social-emotional outlet for children and helps them make connections, both between different areas of learning and between themselves and others. Adding in a platform like the Student Arts Expo helps take that learning experience from the classroom out into the real world, she said.

“They start to see that what they do can be big and it can be recognized. They realize they have a name out there, that their expression is out there in the world and in their community, and they see that what they do can make an impact,” she said.

Guidry and Sargent said they were taken by the work’s vibrant colors, spirit and the story behind the piece’s completion.

Each year a student artwork is chosen from the submissions to LPSS’s Winter Arts Competition to be converted into the expo poster, with the selection pool rotating between elementary, middle and high school submissions. The practice was inspired by Festival International’s tradition of having an official poster artist each year.

“I think [Kale and Kenya’s piece] captures the ethos of the last two years we’ve all been through. This idea of not being able to finish something because of illness or other circumstances and having someone step up and say, ‘I’ve got you.’ I just love that,” the AcA education director said.

“That’s just the arts…The idea of collaboration, helping and teamwork is all very much part of the arts,” she said.

Anita Shire

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