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Feasting eyes on student artwork

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Recognizing and celebrating artistic achievement in student work can sometimes be a difficult — and, at times, too infrequent — endeavor. Unlike math or science, there’s often no “right” answer to arrive at in a painting or sculpture. There are no points scored in photography or ceramics, as there would be in a sports game. There isn’t an exact arrangement of lines that must be adhered to in a drawing, as with letters in a spelling test.

But being creative, diligent and skilled in the arts isn’t easy, either, and art teachers in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District want to make sure those traits are recognized. To do so, they organize the Visual Celebration student art show.

Visual Celebration is an annual art show, open to high school students throughout KPBSD. Art teachers choose up to 18 pieces of student work to submit for inclusion in the spring show. That work is displayed every April at the Kenai Fine Arts Center, in a public gallery setting, complete with an opening reception and juried awards chosen by artists in the community.

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“Students get the experience of being in a juried art competition. It is an honor to be chosen by the instructor for art submission, as each school can choose 18 pieces of the best work,” said Rene’ Taylor, art teacher at Skyview High School. “Students who are otherwise overlooked for their art talents get honored and recognized for it. I have seen students’ eyes light up as they realize, they might not be great at sports and average with math or English, but they are excelling in the arts.”

The Visual Celebration marked its 22nd year in 2011. It began as a way for art teachers to showcase their students’ work, said Sandra Lewis, art teacher at Kenai Central High School. There has been some variation in that time, in number of schools participating, amount of work submitted and mediums the artwork is created in.

This year’s show included a wide variety of styles in the established categories — drawing, functional ceramics, painting, mixed media, printmaking, digital photography, photography, sculpture and “open” for everything else. Along with central peninsula schools, Homer and Seward high schools also participated.

At least one thing has remained consistent year after year — the show’s popularity in the community.

“We have an amazing turnout for our reception by students and parents. It is a great time for them to get some recognition and praise from their parents, peers and community members. There are always pieces that people are wanting to purchase, which is a wonderful compliment for the student,” Lewis said. “The show is a great motivator for some students. They know that it is coming at the end of the year and will work on certain projects, hoping they will be included.” 


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