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Art Festival at McPherson College Gives High School Students Taste of Visual Arts in Higher Education

posted Apr 26, 2012 in CAMPUS EVENTS

More than 275 works of art made by 100 high school students, six college-level workshops and a juried exhibition that lasted only seven hours – this was the Central Kansas Art League Art Festival at McPherson College on April 25.

The festival was a whirlwind of activity, as high school students’ work from around the area was displayed, judged and taken down all in the space of less than a day. Mediums included paint, sculpture, photography, pencil and even two movies.

While on campus, the students also took one of six high quality workshops in subjects including wheelthrown pottery, computer graphics and copper enameled jewelry. This is the second year that McPherson College has hosted the festival, which includes students from Halstead, Haven, Hesston, Hillsboro, Kingman, Lyons, Nickerson, Pratt, Sterling and Smoky Valley (Lindsborg).

Derek Schneider, art teacher at Sterling High School, said he loved that the festival was in a gallery designed for artwork. Having the event in a college setting – rather than in high school gymnasiums and academic classrooms as in previous years – meant the workshops were held in classrooms designed for the art students are learning. He also appreciated the help from McPherson College professors and students to handle the details – letting them as teachers focus on the students’ art.

“This is a motivational tool that we use for the students,” Schneider said. “They like to see what other people are doing and compare themselves to other schools in the league.”

Amy Bartel, a senior at Hillsboro High School, said the substantive and unique workshops were her favorite part of the festival.

“When you come to an art event, you should do art, not just look at art,” she said.
Wayne Conyers, professor of art, said the value of the festival was that it allowed students to have the experience of having their work judged and getting a sense of what it means to take art courses in college. He said the quality of the work on display spoke to the value of art education in high school.

“There’s no doubt that not only is art education important, it’s essential,” he said.

Perhaps the person who had the hardest job during the day was Marsha Shrack, art instructor and gallery director at Pratt Community College, who was the juror for the festival’s exhibit. It was her responsibility to rate the work and name the best pieces among the more than 275 at the show.

“It’s very difficult to judge art,” she said. “Even though there are standards to judge by, it’s like judging a fruit bowl and judging grapes against apples. There just such a variation and so many styles. All of them are good, but which ones are best? It never ceases to surprise me what they come up with. It’s always fresh, it’s always fun to see student artwork.”

Schrack said she has taught art for 30 years and judged numerous exhibitions, and said that McPherson College was probably one of the most hospitable and friendly venues she’s been at.

“This is put on in a very high-class way,” she said. “It’s always great when college students will pitch in and help on these things. It’s always nice for high school students to see the college students at work.”


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