Youth Art Month exhibit lets Wisconsin student artists shine like athletes | Local Education

An annual exhibit that draws entrants from across Wisconsin is considered the state finals for art students.

“This is like making it to the state basketball tournament. It is no different. It is just that your skill is art and not basketball,” said Jen Dahl, Youth Art Month coordinator for the Wisconsin Art Education Association. “This is the state art competition. This is the best of the best.”

The 2022 State Youth Art Month Exhibit displayed about 500 art pieces made by students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade at 130 schools across the state. Art teachers first submitted five pieces that were displayed at regional exhibits before judges narrowed them down to three pieces that went on to state.

The show’s closing on Friday included a ceremony, and some students received awards for their art. Each year, students also can design a flag for Youth Art Month, and the winning entrant this year was Eli Szabo, an eighth-grader at Fort Atkinson Middle School.

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Eli Szabo, an eighth-grader at Fort Atkinson Middle School, designed the winning flag for this year’s Youth Art Month.

Kainsley Mack, a first-grader at Lodi Primary School, received an award for the tiger she created with Sharpie pen, watercolor paint and pieces of tissue paper.

Artwork by Kainsley Mack

Kainsley Mack, a first-grader at Lodi Primary School, received an award for a tiger she created with Sharpie pen, watercolor paint and pieces of tissue paper that was included in this year’s State Youth Art Month Exhibit.

“She’s incredibly proud. … I will be honest she gets dragged to a lot of her brother’s (sporting) events,” said Shiloh Mack, Kainsley’s mom. “She sees all of the accomplishments (of her brothers). This was her opportunity to shine.”

While her brothers have little interest in art, Kainsley is often drawing and coloring, her mother said.

Kainsley said the experience was “pretty exciting.”

Sandy Osterman, who teaches art at Lodi Primary School, Lodi Elementary School and Ouisconsing School of Collaboration, said she believes the exhibit is important because some students excel in the arts even if they are not otherwise academically inclined.

“I just think it is important to keep the arts alive. I really think the visual arts, music, phy ed — all of that is important to have a well-rounded child,” Osterman said.

Youth Art Month was established in 1961 by the Council for Art Education as an annual observance each March to emphasize the value of art and art education for all children and to encourage public support for school art programs.

In addition to a chance to see the art, those who attended Friday’s exhibit closing could go on a scavenger hunt to find art pieces with certain characteristics and do some art projects.

The closing ceremony’s featured speakers and 41 artistic merit awards were presented by sponsors Sargent Art, Nasco, Blick Art Materials, Vinery, East Towne Mall, the governor’s office and the state Department of Public Instruction. Award winners received art supplies.

The grand prize Spirit of Youth Art Month Award was presented by Blick to Maya Pries, a sophomore at Deerfield High School. She received art supplies and $400.

“That’s all I do,” Pries said about her interest in art.

Her artwork was an oil painting, which was a final in a “2D Art II class.” It was one of three paintings she created that portrayed different emotions. The one in the exhibit illustrated stress and fear and was a self-portrait.

Carrie Schmidt, who teaches middle and high school art in Deerfield, said Pries is an “awesome student and really well deserving” of the grand prize award. On the last day of the exhibit, Schmidt was able to take the three students with artwork in the show and some friends of Pries to give her a cheering section.

“It is great to get (students) recognized beyond the school and community,” Schmidt said.

This year, art submitted by teachers, who are members of the Wisconsin Art Education Association, also was displayed in the exhibit at East Towne Mall instead of having a separate show during the organization’s fall conference.

The exhibit was moved from its usual location at the state Capitol to East Towne, said Dahl, who teaches art at Red Creek and Forrest Street elementary schools in Black River Falls. There was discussion about reducing the size of the exhibit to about half, and Dahl said she didn’t want some students to lose the opportunity to show their art. Since then, an agreement has been reached for the exhibit to return to the Capitol but a decision on whether that will happen has not been made.

While the Capitol is more “prestigious,” the mall is “super accessible,” Dahl said, and the Capitol’s limited space doesn’t allow for the scavenger hunt and art projects that were incorporated this year.

Eric Zizich, marketing director for East Towne and West Towne malls, said the mall just off a highway and with ample parking was accessible for parents across the state.

“It seems like a good mix of people checked (the art) out,” he said. “It is just great for us for people to come into the mall and have a great place to see the art. It gives us plenty of new shoppers.”

Anita Shire

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