In a world that is increasingly obsessed with being measurable, it is perhaps more important than ever that we purposefully present resources and opportunities to our young artists.
Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center is known around the Ohio Valley arts scene for its community centered exhibitions, its summer camps, as well as providing art classes for all ages and skill levels. But, according to Brad Johnson, the director of exhibitions at the Stifel Fine Arts Center, it’s the resources that are provided to artists, particularly young artists, that might very well hold the greatest importance.
The Annual Regional Student Art Exhibit provides high school students the opportunity to display their work in a professional gallery, see what other students are doing in the world of art and collaborate and get feedback from art teachers, college professors and other students from throughout the region. Alone, that would be an amazing opportunity, but the real value is in the resources that are provided to the participants.
“It’s always great to see these kids display their work at this level for the first time. There is a real sense of achievement and a realization that, ‘Hey, I can do this,’ Johnson said. “But, at the same time, this exhibition is going to end. The skills they gain and the resources they have access to as they prepare for this exhibit will serve them well in the future.”
To impact the largest amount of budding artists possible, the exhibit is open to any student in grades 9-12 within a 50-mile radius of Wheeling. The 2015 student exhibit proudly showed a record 206 entries from 122 students.
Johnson said that all students have access to workshops, professional equipment and mentoring free of charge through the Stifel Center’s Art Prep Program, which is made possible by the Elizabeth Stifel Kline Foundation.
“Every participating student gets the opportunity to learn how to properly measure and cut mats and mount their work through our matting workshop. They also have access to our digital photography studio, backdrops and instruction in how to properly shoot and light 2-D and 3-D pieces to begin building a professional digital portfolio. Often, these kinds of things aren’t stressed enough in art programs because they aren’t actually art technique or art history. We do that as well, but what this type of instruction does is move a students from making art recreationally to presenting themselves professionally. We have found time and time again that these skills are invaluable when applying to schools or professional positions by giving them a leg-up on their peers in the same position.”
This attention to training and mentoring the youngest members of the Ohio Valley arts scene, as well as the exhibit itself, are key components of the Stifel Center’s mission to provide opportunities for aspiring artists to advance their talents.
Johnson said the Art Prep Program in not only available to schools participating in the Regional Student Art Show but also to any school that wants to make this opportunity available to its students.
“Essentially, we take the same expertise and attention we pay to those who are exhibiting in this show and make it available to an entire high school art program as part of their curriculum offering. The program is free, and we would love to see more schools take advantage of this program. We are proud to serve as a resource for schools, teachers and students.”
Georgia Tambasis, assistant professor of art at Wheeling Jesuit University, juried the 2015 student show and said providing opportunities and resources like the Stifel Fine Arts Center does is good for the future of Ohio Valley arts and culture.
“I was honored to be the judge of this year’s awards. In a time when the arts are underrepresented in schools, shows like this recognize student achievements in the arts in our community.”
The winners were selected from four categories – painting, photography, drawing, and 3-D.
Recognition of those artists wasn’t limited to ribbons and bragging rights. Winning artists also received cash prizes, and three universities were on hand to view the artwork and offer scholarships to the participants that they thought most deserved a chance to further pursue their passion.
At the end of the night, West Virginia University offered a four-year, full tuition scholarship to Katelyn Yalacki of Avella High School and a $1000 scholarship to Ellie Knox of Union Local High School. West Liberty University offered a $1,000 scholarship to Knox as well.
The winners were as follows:
Best of Show: Raegan Ricer of Union Local.
Painting: First place, Samantha Shipley of Wheeling Park High School; second place, Megan Lattocha of Union Local High School; third place, Madison Huffman of Wheeling Park.
Drawing: First place, Morgan Dubich of Avella High School; second place Ellie Knox of Union Local; third place, Allison Ognacak of Bridgeport High School.
Photography: First place, Holly Greene of Wheeling Park; second place, Logan Mackey of Cameron; third place, Mason Boni of Avella.
3-D: First place, Shelby Fluharty of Wheeling Park; second place, Chelsey Christmas of Wheeling Park; third place, Katelyn Yalacki of Avella High School.
Honorable mentions: Shelby Fluharty of Wheeling Park, Katelyn Yalacki of Avella, Leah Stem of Cameron and Victor Velanga of Bridgeport.