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Otsego students expand art education and explore ArtPrize

Guests browse the Otsego art exhibit.

Stuednts proudly show their Chevrolet logo designs.

A student explores a piece at Grand Rapids ArtPrize.

Otsego students strike a pose in front of artwork at Grand Rapids ArtPrize.

Students admire chalk artwork.

From painting to sculpting to chalk and paper mache, there are all types of art that students are exposed to in school. Otsego students, however, have unique opportunities to step out of their classes and experience art as a professional artist and view professional artists at work.
Each September, students become professional artists when their work goes on display during the city’s Creative Arts Festival -- about 1,000 art pieces from the prior school year are put into a Student Art Exhibit at the Otsego Historical Museum. “It gives them a chance to see their work outside of the school setting, which changes their perspective of their own artwork as well as their peers’ artwork,” says elementary art teacher Sarah Parr.
“For the students, it’s a sense of pride they have in having their artwork showcased for them to show their family and friends. It’s a staple for our visual arts program and it provides us the opportunity to let our kids shine,” adds elementary art teacher Kristy Jorgensen.
Students are thrilled to look through the displays to find the one that is theirs, but they also get to witness the wide eyes, smiles and positive comments coming from those who come in to browse. “The exhibit gives the community an opportunity to see what’s happening in the art classrooms and to appreciate the importance of the arts in our schools,” Parr says.
The exhibit contains K-12 work so the hundreds that come through see the scope of artistic experiences that students get throughout their years at Otsego. “I love hearing feedback from the community about the quality of my students' work and they enjoy hearing the compliments,” says middle school art teacher Mary Gerard.
Middle school students are able to participate in a second community display through the Midway Chevrolet “Art on Glass” contest. Chevy challenges students to create a Chevy logo design. They hang all the designs on the windows of the showroom and customers and staff vote for their favorites. Gerard says it’s one of the most exciting projects middle school students do. “Students take this project very seriously. The prizes are quite large and that amount of money can be a huge motivator,” Gerard adds. Chevy gives prizes to the top three winners in each grade level, sixth through eighth. The top prize is $75, second place is $50 and third place is $25. They also donate $500 to the school each year for art supplies.
The cash prizes are much bigger in the professional world as students are able to witness on an annual field trip to ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, one of the world’s largest and most popular art competitions. “Many of the kids have never been to a big city like Grand Rapids and most of them haven’t been exposed to such an array of art, so going is very powerful for them,” says fifth grade teacher Stephanie Senn. All Otsego fifth graders, eighth grade art students, and an advanced art class from the high school -- about 250 students -- go on this field trip.
“It’s a great way for students to experience the art world in a one-of-a-kind event,” adds Jorgensen. Before the field trip, she discusses how to properly view and discuss artwork in public settings and gives them ideas of things they should look for to better understand the artist’s message and how, and why, they created it. “I hope that they have a better understanding of the world of art around us and the artists that are creating work today,” Jorgensen says of the trip.
“It was awesome,” says Ali Janke, now a sixth grade student. She reflected on how much color there was in the art exhibits and really liked the 3D aspect. They see professional artists’ work in class, but usually just on paper. At ArtPrize, “it explodes into life size. You see that art is not limited to a piece of paper.”
ArtPrize gives students the opportunity to experience art like never before. They see a wide variety of art forms and in all shapes and sizes. From paintings to live performances, to wood carvings and interactive displays, ArtPrize showcases dozens of art forms and on a grand scale. As the students take in these professional works of art, they are also wearing their art critic hats, “When we get back from the field trip, they share and talk about favorite pieces,” Senn adds.
Art criticism is already a part of the high school art class, so this field trip reinforces their classroom lessons and allows them to take it to the next level. “They can ask the artists questions about their work and where their inspiration came from,” says high school art teacher Cassandra Boyce.
It’s a trip that students talk about for weeks. “ArtPrize is exciting; it opens up a whole new world for some of our students,” Gerard says. She likes to listen to the kids’ excitement about what pieces moved them in some way. She says that’s a realization that they “get it.”
The experience as a whole is something that broadens their sense of what art is, “I hope they take away a stronger sense of the importance of art and what defines art -- it gives them a greater sense that there is no right or wrong way to make art, because art is self-expression with purpose and intention,” Parr adds.
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