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Art show emphasizes art education

Jared Williams (from right), Laura Weyenberg and their teacher Susan Ranfranz pose for a photo. (photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 3
Eleventh grader Jared Williams’ portrait titled “Insomnia” will be displayed as a part of the DAI’s “First Spark” art show. (Submitted photo)2 / 3
“Blue Musk” by eleventh grader Laura Weyenberg was selected to be shown in an exhibit dedicated to K-12 art at the Duluth Art Institute. (Submitted photo)3 / 3

Eleventh graders Jared Williams and Laura Weyenberg both like to make faces.

Williams prefers to use a palette knife while Weyenberg generally sticks to watercolors.

“I don’t know what it is about drawing a face,” said Williams. “Everything is very subtle in it, but you get a wider range of expressions. You can look at like photos of buildings and stuff, but when you look at a face, there’s so much more to it. There are all these emotions behind it.”

“I like painting and drawing and doing faces in different perspectives with different emotions,” said Weyenberg.

Both students practiced their portrait painting skills in Susan Ranfranz’s art class at East High School last semester.These young artists are among several students from Duluth schools who will have their artwork featured in the “First Spark: K-12 Youth Art Show” opening Thursday. The show will be on display in the Steffi Gallery of the Duluth Art Institute until April 20.

“This is the third year we’ve celebrated youth artwork. We believe in celebrating the next generation of artists,” said DAI curator Anne Dugan.

This year’s art show comes with a theme of “First Spark” and is dedicated to showing off the importance art education.

“A recent study published in the New York Times shows a causal relationship between students experiencing art and higher test scores,” said Dugan. “With education funding for the arts under constant threat, it’s refreshing to focus on the depth of talent we have in teachers and students.”

Dugan is referring to an article in the opinion section of the New York Times titled “Art Makes You Smart” by Brian Kisida, Jay Greene and Daniel Bowen. This article explores a study conducted when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Ark., and several schools in the area were invited to see the artwork for free. According to the study, the students who visited the museum scored highly in areas such as critical thinking, historical empathy and tolerance.

Ranfranz, who has been teaching art for 20 years, says she can see a connection between art education and doing well in school.

“As an educator, I think it’s directly related,” said Ranfranz. “I think that art, like music, works on some components of the academic brain, such as problem solving and coming up with with your own original ideas. That’s where I see a big difference in students that are aspiring academically. The fluidity of their ideas comes a lot quicker and they’re more confident.”

Yet Dugan points out that art programs are often the first to be cut when schools look at making budget cuts.

“Sometimes learning about art is thought of as frivolous,” said Dugan. “The idea of studying art history is an accepted joke in our society with insidious roots. To shut down creative learning is to shut down the ability to learn to change.”

“It takes a higher conscious to appreciate and look at a piece and realize what went into it,” said Ranfranz. “Some people don’t have the ability to read our work, or to look at it deeper.”

This is why Williams said he is excited to have his artwork included in the show; he hopes to get his work out to a bigger audience where

“It’s really cool being able to get my stuff out there to more people, other than just what we have here at school. And to people who are more likely to appreciate it for the art of it. Because at school it’s just like kids passing by. People who would go to an art show would probably appreciate it more,” said Williams.

The show will open with a gallery celebration from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Duluth Art Institute.

What: Gallery celebration: First Spark

Where: DAI Galleries in the Depot, 506 W. Michigan St.

When: 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20

Cost: Free

Photos and Captions:

0216.N.DBN.DAIsparkWilliams Portrait.jpg

0216.N.DBN.DAIsparkWeyenberg portrait.JPG

“Blue Musk” by eleventh grader Laura Weyenberg was selected to be shown in an exhibit dedicated to K-12 art at the Duluth Art Institute. (Submitted photo)

0216.F.DBN.Spark.3.jpg

Jared Williams (from right), Laura Weyenberg and their teacher Susan Ranfranz pose for a photo. (photo by Teri Cadeau)

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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