Students Show Off Artistic Talents

After 14 years, the Student Art Show of Excellence in Wheeling continues to be new and different every year because of those who participate in the show.

Children, 14 and younger, in kindergarten to eighth grade, are the artists in this show. Eligible are boys and girls in public school or private schools, individuals who take private art lessons and youth create art at home. The students come from schools in West Virginia and Ohio. Last year, 19 school participated.

The 14th annual Student Art Show of Excellence will open Friday, April 4, at Artworks Around Town in the Centre Market, 2200 Market St. The art will be displayed in both the Studio and the North galleries. The gallery hop (or opening) will begin at 5:30 p.m. and continue until 8 p.m. More than $1,500 in awards will be given to young artists at 7 p.m.

As always, light refreshments will be offered. The event is open to the general public as well as all relatives of the artists and patrons of the arts.

This show was created in 2000 with a crazy idea by Judy Minder, still the curator of the show. Shows that included the junior high students whom Minder taught had disappeared. Because she realized that she taught many fine artists in her school classes, she knew there was a need to encourage those young artists.

Sending out letters to all the art teachers in the public and private schools of the tri-state area, she received two replies of interest. One was from Rosetta Epifano from Sherrard School and the other from Georgette Stock at Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy. These three art teachers came together to create a show of 90 pieces in the second-floor gallery of Kirk’s Art Store in downtown Wheeling.

Because Minder wanted these young artists to experience the complete art show situation, she invited professional artists to judge that first show. The first judges were Anne Hazlett Foreman and Dora Reed (now Blankenship), two artist members of Artworks Around Town. Since that first year, the subsequent shows have been judged by numerous professional regional artists and art educators from local collages and universities.

The show prizes, from the beginning, always included a monetary prize along with a ribbon to the winners. The prize money came originally from the small entry fee each entering artist pays. Minder believed it was important that these young artists knew that artwork can earn not only recognition but also money.

The prize money changed when Mary Ann Lokmer of Wheeling Coffee and Spice inquired about the show and decided to offer a prize from her company. Since that time, numerous individuals either offered prizes from companies or organizations or to honor an individual who has been involved in the arts as an artist or patron of the arts. This year, 59 prizes will be awarded.

Four new ribbons are being offered this year. Two awards sponsored by Artworks are dedicated to two member artists who died in the past year. A new photography award is being given in the name of Pat Temple, photographer and longtime member of Artworks. Another award is in the name of Brian Taylor, an Artworks member, painter of many local scenes and designer of the Paint Oglebay logo painting. Sandi Ziokowski, local jewelry designer and crafter, is sponsoring two new awards this year. Artworks Around Town, as a sponsor, has created six awards in total.

Each participant receives a “blue ribbon” of commendation. Prize winners receive gaudy ribbons, a personalized certificate and a cash award. For the past several years, the show has been able to award approximately $2,000 in prize money. All money donated is spent on the show as prize money or to purchase and pay for the awards for the student. No money is used for “administrative expenses,” Minder said. All services for the show are donated by the individuals working with the event.

“Not only are the student artists thrilled by having their artwork in an actual gallery setting, but the adult artists who are part of hanging and creating this show are rewarded by the wonderful reaction of numerous prize winners,” Minder said. “The smiles and excitement of winners are wonderful to see at the opening when the awards are given out.”

Supporters of this show are a diverse group – a truck driver, an architect, a mortician, an electrical engineer, two college professors and their two small children, numerous local artists and art educators, and an internationally known artist – all who recognize the importance of encouraging young artists. Awards honor relatives who have died or who have never been honored for their art work.

Minder commented, “The teachers of these students are dedicated art professionals. All those who encourage these young artists are helping to create a life-long interest in a craft that cannot dim with age or condition of life.

“Artists are all types of people,” she continued. “There are artists who can only paint or draw by using their feet or mouths. There are artists who work until they are elderly. Creating beauty is an important part of living a full good life. Introducing these children to something they can do all their life is the purpose behind this show.”