Works by &lsquo;familiar&rsquo; <br />artists included in reception

People of all ages strolled through the Washington Street Arts Center Thursday afternoon, April 22, taking in art of nearly every genre – from painting, sculpture, graphic design and photography.

Some of the works included the signatures of the artists. Many names familiar to local art lovers could be found, which made Thursday's exhibit just that more satisfying to everyone who attended.

The artwork on display, created by students in Vermillion's public schools and St. Agnes Elementary, was part of the art center's All School Art Show Reception sponsored by the Vermillion Area Arts Council. The names on the signed pieces are of young people from Vermillion who are neighbors, friends, or familiar in some way to many of the people who visited the art center.

"The art that I've brought has been from all year," said Janet Beeman, who teaches art classes at Vermillion High School. "I saved pieces from the classes from both the first and second semesters."

The wide variety of art on display effectively reflects the goals and accomplishments of art classes offered to students in Vermillion's schools.

"The goals of my curriculum are to teach the kids the basic principles of good design and art – the basic elements and principles that work together," she said. "So, a lot of our projects are based on good composition with those elements. Some of them will focus on lines, some projects will be pattern.

"Graphic design is a little different, but all of the elements still apply. You have to have emphasis, you have to have unity. So we build around those building blocks," Beeman said.

Students at Vermillion High School must complete one credit of fine art to graduate – either in music, band, chorus or art.

"I have a wide variety," Beeman said. "I have graphic design, photography, ceramics, sculpture, painting and drawing. So students have good choices. Some only take the two classes they need to graduate, and others get hooked in and those kids take all of the classes."

At least 200 VHS students are involved in the art classes offered at the high school.

Thursday show help emphasize the important role that art plays in society, and the important role it plays in young people's education.

"What a boring world it would be if you took all of the art of out it," Beeman said. "The role that art classes play in education is to get the 'right brain' going. There is no right answer," Beeman said. "You give a student a problem to solve with a project, whether it be ceramics or sculpture, and they take it from there. They figure out how to build it, and it teaches them problem solving."

Art education also helps many young people discover their innate abilities to be creative.

"You can see it happen, if they produce something that is beautiful," she said. "And I also tell them that art is everywhere they look. It's on your t-shirt. It's on your breakfast cereal box. It's in the way a building is designed. It is everywhere, and someone needs to be filling the jobs  of creating that art. It just leads students into a different area that they may not have discovered otherwise."

Thursday's display proved to be a reassuring time for Vermillion's young artist.

"To see them find out that they can do it, that they can create art, and to have somebody come up and say, 'Boy, that really looks good' – you can see the confidence grow in them," Beeman said. "It is a good feeling. It gives them the confidence they need."

Jennifer Stofferahn teaches art in Vermillion Middle School, working with kids in sixth through eighth grades. She also teaches an introduction to art class at Vermillion High School.

Stofferahn said she tries to teach her students "a little bit of everything" in the limited time she has with them.

"I try to fit in as much as I can, covering some of the basics," she said. "We go through drawing and shading, and do a little bit with print-making. We try to do a little bit of everything, and I concentrate a lot on effort. Sometimes, that a bit difficult with middle school kids, because they have so much energy, and there's so many other things going on in their world right now."

Stofferahn said she concentrates on teaching her students basic skills, and some background on different art styles and the works of famous artists.

"We don't get a chance to really go in-depth on a lot of topics, because if we want to have any studio time, we don't have much time to spare to go into different art terms or art history," she said. "We need to balance things a little bit so they have plenty of hands-on time."

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