More than 350 students showcase their art as part of Youth Art Month
You will see them all around town. Watercolors, acrylics, sculptures and pencil drawings by budding artists in the community. But you may be surprised to learn that the art around town is drawn by Zionsville Community School students from elementary through high school as part of Youth Art Month.
“Youth Art Month is a wonderful way to not only honor our many talented art students in the Zionsville School System for their technique, creativity and hard work, but it is also a way to continue to foster support for the arts in the community,” Jeff Zurawski, Zionsville West Middle School art teacher, said.
Children’s Art Month was founded in 1961 by the Crayon, Water Color and Craft Institute, Inc. in cooperation with the National Art Education Association. Zionsville Community Schools Fine Arts Dept. joined this national event in March 2011 to emphasize the importance of art education, raise awareness and support for school art programs, and to expand current programs and encourage new ones. It is also a way to affirm young artists of the importance of visual art and help them build confidence and self esteem.
According to Eagle Elementary second-grader, Luke Spencer, “I am excited to have my picture around town. My sister paints and does a lot of drawings and she said, ‘Good job!’”
With approximately 350 students from grades one through 12 participating in YAM this year and more than 20 local establishments displaying their works throughout the month of March, a lot of work and organization is required.
“The schools and teachers reach out to everyone to get the event going,” ZCHS art teacher Brenda Jalaie said. “This is a huge undertaking.”
Jalaie said the students’ artwork had to be matted, framed and tagged to keep track of which piece was going where, all while teachers still perform their daily classroom tasks.
ZMS eighth-grader, Emma Mourfield, is a participating student who was selected last year as one of the school’s “Artists of the Year.” She is grateful for YAM as well as the school art program, which gives students an option to take visual arts year-round from seventh-grade on.
“Art is important in middle and high school because it’s a stressful time,” Mourfield said. “It’s good to be able to get away to draw and paint and take a break.”
Starting to draw when she was four-years-old and now with dreams of becoming an art therapist, Mourfield’s passion is evident to all who know her. She has canvases “all over the house” and a mural in progress in her bedroom. Her sketchbook is also never far away.
“I usually have my sketchbook with me. It’s not that I’m not listening in class, but if we have free time and can do work, I pull it out. Any minute I can have extra drawing time is good,” Mourfield said.
Teachers have also noticed her passion and love of art.
“Emma is one of those students who gets in a ‘zone’ when entering the art room. Everything she produces artistically is a reflection of her heart and soul,” Erin Goodman, ZMS art teacher said. “We have many art students, like Emma, who carry their sketchbook everywhere they go. We, as teachers, are as inspired by them as they are us.”
According to ZCHS senior, Casey Stone, “It connects us with the community and gives the community a chance to see what we’re doing.”
The value of art education is growing in awareness with statistics proving how children exposed to art increase their critical thinking, multicultural awareness as well as technical, communication and expressive skills.
According to a 2011 study by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities called, Reinvesting in Arts Education, integrating the arts with other subjects helps improve the learning process, specifically with data showing how visual arts instruction improves reading and learning while playing an instrument improves math ability.
“I can’t imagine life without art. Art is all over in public places – in furniture, architecture of buildings, gardens,” Cynthia Young, executive director of the SullivanMunce Cultural Center, said. “I don’ t think people realize how many professions are connected to art.”
Zionsville Community Schools takes art education seriously and is grateful to be spearheading Youth Art Month.
“Since the first year in 2011, we have been overwhelmed with the amount of support from the community that surrounds the event,” Sarah Zack, ZMS art teacher and YAM coordinator, said. “Our students love seeing their art work in the community, and we love the opportunity to display it to the public. We feel fortunate to teach in a community who values the arts and wanted to show our thanks.”