A student's amazement at seeing their artwork on display in a museum is priceless.
"It makes you want to teach a lot more years," said Holly Stanek, art teacher at Cambria Heights Elementary in Carrolltown.
This time of year is enjoyable for Stanek, as she is able to show off her students' artwork at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art student exhibition, "Artists of the 21st Century." Stanek chose 20 pieces of artwork created by her students in kindergarten through fifth grade to be displayed at the exhibit, along with at least 200 other pieces of artwork by local students.
This graphite and chalk was created by Justin Goldian, a 12th-grader at Northern Cambria High School.
This is the 14th year for the exhibition, in which 29 schools in 13 districts submitted student projects to be displayed at SAMA.
"The 'Artists of the 21st Century' exhibition is a great opportunity for students to see their own work professionally exhibited in an accredited art museum," Jessica Campbell, SAMA education coordinator said. "This exhibition is one of my favorites because it allows the museum to share the work of these talented young people."
As part of the program, SAMA educators traveled to schools to teach students about art creation, technique, history, criticism and aesthetics.
If you go
What: "Artists of the 21st Century"
Where and when: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto through March 24; Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Ligonier Valley through April 15
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. on weekends
Information: Visit www.sama-art.org or call Jessica Campbell at 472-3920.
Jana Sidler, art teacher at Bishop Guilfoyle High School, Altoona, feels the SAMA program is invaluable to students who get to experience different artistic styles by working with the SAMA instructors.
"It brings other artists to the classroom that kids might not be exposed to otherwise," Sidler said. "Most of the kids I have often go four years with me. It's a great way to bring someone else's styles and teaching styles and mediums to the classroom."
Each school district involved in the program was permitted to submit 20 pieces of artwork chosen by the teachers. The artwork is made "museum-ready," Campbell said. All artwork is required to be professionally matted and framed.
"Every year you see some outstanding artwork from our local talent," Campbell said.
Teachers often choose artwork students have been working on during the year - projects that stand out and show talent or improvement.
"I try to find students that show the most understanding of the subject matter," Eric Hoover, art teacher at Blacklick Valley School in Nanty Glo, said. Hoover teaches kindergarten through 12th grade.
Zack Mailman, a senior at Blacklick Valley, is displaying his artwork for the first time this year at the SAMA exhibit. He painted a guitar to make it appear '60s vintage.
"I gave it a '60s vibe," Mailman said. "I've been playing guitar for like 10 years. I thought it was a cool opportunity to show my art."
Hoover said he enjoys displaying students' work because they feel important, and their parents are excited. "A lot of kids they don't realize how nice their artwork is until it's framed and in a museum," Hoover said, explaining he and the shop teacher at Blacklick Valley frame and mat all the pieces and prepare them for the exhibit. "When I tell kids their work should be at a museum they don't believe me." This year Hoover chose some abstract marker drawings and wood carvings from elementary students and some sculptural pieces from the older students.
Stanek likes to use artwork from students who have shown vast improvement. One of her students, who had a little trouble in art in the beginning of the year, produced a beautiful watercolor painting, and Stanek was ecstatic to display it at the SAMA exhibit.
"Sometimes it's something they achieved. Maybe something they never achieved before. It's one of those light bulb moments. They maybe struggled in art class, but with this particular medium they have excelled," Stanek said.
Along with some watercolor paintings, Stanek chose foil projects and stuffed snowmen to display at the SAMA exhibit.
Teachers often try to choose a wide variety of artwork that differs from pieces submitted the year before. Sharon Wall, art teacher at Altoona Area High School, chose work from her advanced placement art classes. "I'm looking for a cross section of things," Wall said.
Two pieces are paintings of personal objects which the students distorted. Other pieces include a self-portrait and water color art.
Some students, who don't excel in other areas at school, enjoy art, and the SAMA program might boost their self-esteem, Hoover said.
"There are kids that excel at art that don't excel at other subjects. It gives them a chance to shine. It's a chance for them to shine outside the classroom," Hoover said.