Exhibiting artistic talent

Works: The Youth Art Month show demonstrates the range of creative ability in Howard schools

Howard Live

March 16, 2000|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

Maybe it's how Van Gogh got his start.

Learning the basics of sketching, sculpting, painting. Working with art instructors on challenging projects, beginning at age 5. And having works exhibited in large shows at local art galleries.

OK, maybe not. But it does describe the hundreds of Howard County students taking part in the annual Youth Art Month Exhibition at Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City.

Called "Designing Artful Problems with Real World Applications," this year's exhibition features more than 300 pieces of artwork designed by schoolchildren in kindergarten through grade 12. The exhibit opens tomorrow and will run through April 27.

It's a complicated title for the simple, appealing show. Colorful examples of painting, furniture making, sculpture and photography are on display.

What comes through loud and clear on the walls of the center's Gallery One is the joy each student felt in creative expression.

Liza Fishbein, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Bryant Woods Elementary School in Columbia, is one of a handful of elementary pupils who created a piece of Dinka cloth and emblazoned it with a personal slogan.

Lisa's slogan, "Everybody Has Beauty Inside," is underscored on the cloth by a picture of a young girl with sparks coming out of her body.

She's excited about seeing her creation in a gallery, but she says she will "be a little embarrassed, because I always am when I think everyone is looking at me." The project "perked me up, because the sparks on the cloth were really pretty," and the drawn figure "looked really happy and beautiful."

"Making the cloth was fun, and I'd definitely like to do it again," she said.

The sprawling exhibit covers every square foot of wall space in Gallery One. There are handmade candles in clay pots, cheerfully painted furniture, dinosaur figures made of papier-mache, a lushly rendered mural in the style of Henri Rousseau and another painted with the self-portraits of several middle-school pupils.

Along one wall, several large, painted horses are mounted on wooden poles to form a carousel, and a few small, decorated boxes double as pinhole cameras.

Working clocks with faces painted like animals hang on another wall, and several toys decorate the back of the gallery.

The beauty of the show is that each piece "can be taken out and used in the real world," said Barry Shauck, instructional facilitator for the visual arts for the Howard school system and curator of the Youth Art Month show. "Everything in the gallery answers the question, `What is art for?' "

Art teachers at the county schools were given suggestions to help spark their imaginations before presenting art problems to their students.

The list of suggestions included objects that provided a function or a service, such as those that added decoration, told time, prepared food or made music. Teachers also told their students they could create objects that involved their communities, such as playground equipment, sculptures and commemorative medallions.

Left to their devices, the students let their imaginations run wild, said Aileen Pugliese, an art teacher at Rockburn Elementary School in Elkridge and the chairwoman of the Youth Art Month Committee for the Maryland Art Education Association.

Not surprisingly, a theme that runs through the show is friendship. "It's very big to most kids, the idea of having friends," said David Anderson, an art teacher at Bryant Woods Elementary, who asked his pupils to create clothing that had personal symbolism. "So many of them wanted to say something that was important to them at that particular stage in their lives."

When the pupils found that their art would be included in the exhibition, "they were really excited," Pugliese said.

This month, "we have contests in each of the schools, and there are different exhibits in the schools," she added. "This project is about bringing the children's visual awareness of the world into focus."

Anderson said the exhibition will also "make the students and the community aware of the importance of having art in the public school system. This is one of the best ways to get that message across."

The center's Gallery Two will feature a smaller, complementary exhibit by professional graphic artists, illustrators and furniture makers. That way, "the teachers and kids who come to see their own work can see how these same themes and problems that they worked on can be solved by professionals," Shauck said.

The opening reception for "Designing Artful Problems with Real World Applications" will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City. A gallery talk will be held at 7 p.m. Information: 410-313-2787.

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