RAM Talks Art: Art teachers behind-the-scenes heroes

By Carrie Breitbach
Education Director, Rockford Art Museum

This year at Rockford Art Museum (RAM), we are celebrating the 69th Young Artist Show and, just like years past, this exhibition will not disappoint art enthusiasts of all ages.

In 1941, RAM displayed the artwork of Rockford’s schoolchildren in the first Young Artist Show. What began as a single show dedicated to displaying art by local students has now evolved into a regional exhibition that is open to public, private, parochial and home school students. It is also divided into two exhibits: a high school division and a youth division (for grades K-8 in Winnebago County). Although the show has changed over the years, its purpose has not.

The Young Artist Show begins each year with the High School Division, a juried show. Art teachers within a 50-mile radius of RAM take the time to help their students select their best pieces of work for consideration for this show. Students may submit individual pieces, and seniors are eligible to enter up to five pieces in a portfolio.

After all entries are brought to the museum, jurors have the task of selecting pieces they feel best exemplify the talent, skill and creativity that these outstanding students display. As well as choosing the work to exhibit, the jurors name award-winners, such as Best of Show, Best 2-D, Best 3-D, and Jurors’ Choice. They also pick which students receive two prestigious scholarships: the Portfolio Scholarship Award and the Myrtle M. Irons Scholarship Award.

This year, 21 schools submitted work adding up to 850 pieces. We selected two collegiate art professors to jury the show. This year, we had the great pleasure of welcoming Drea Howenstein, associate professor and chairman of the Art Education Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Andrew John Liccardo, assistant professor of photography at the School of Art at Northern Illinois University.

The jurors had one day to look at each piece and through each portfolio to customize a diverse, well-rounded exhibition. They agreed on their main objective in judging this show—variety. Both spent time carefully picking pieces that would not only complement the others, but also project comprehension and technique. The result ended in 137 stellar pieces that encompass the talent of our youth.

Every year, I am astounded by the artwork that comes into the museum, and my thoughts were not alone. Howenstein and Liccardo said they had both juried high school shows before, and ours was the best they’ve seen.

These students are obviously talented, but let’s not forget the heroes behind the scenes that rarely get their kudos—their teachers. Art teachers in this community continue to drive their students to greatness, try new things, get their fingers dirty, and work to their fullest potential. It’s evident.

Let’s face it, our teachers are up against a lot of obstacles now, fighting tooth and nail to keep the arts going in our schools; their hard work and efforts have not gone unnoticed. So, hats off to all the teachers who work tirelessly each year to push their students to greatness.

The 69th Young Artist Show: High School Division is free and open to the public Sunday, March 7, from 1 to 3 p.m. Awards will be presented at 2 p.m. Sponsored by Women’s Art Board, the exhibition runs through Saturday, April 3, at Rockford Art Museum.

Contact Rockford Art Museum Education Director Carrie Breitbach at http://www.cbreitbach@rockfordartmuseum.org.

From the Mar. 3-9, 2010 issue

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