Visitors to the Historic Thomas Center perused the wide array of paintings, drawings, photography and ceramics on display this week through an exhibition. However, this week’s exhibit was not created by a single artist — it was a collection of works from K-12 students in Alachua County Public Schools.
The Alachua County Public Schools Art Exhibit, which is on display from Feb. 16 to Feb. 27, features over 100 pieces of artwork from the district’s K-12 students. Located at the Historic Thomas Center, the art exhibit aims to showcase the artistic talent of local youth.
Florida ranks 48 out of 50 states in art funding, so showcases like the ACPS art exhibit remain an important haven for students to express their artistic abilities.
Diana Rollo, ACPS curriculum specialist for K-12 fine arts, said the annual art showcase has gone on for more than 20 years. The exhibit was closed due to COVID-19 last year, disappointing many community members engaged in prioritizing art in schools.
“It's an absolutely necessary part of their education, especially right now after coming out of COVID,” she said. “It's vital to their social emotional well being, their development of their creative skills, their critical thinking skills, and it makes them well rounded individuals.”
A reception was held for the art teachers, students and their families Feb. 17, providing a joyous environment where everyone could celebrate the students’ work.
“The students were so thrilled to be there. The teachers were excited to be there with their students,” Rollo said. “It was a beautiful evening for families to come in and look at the art for us to be able to recognize the students that were selected.”
For the annual showcase, each elementary school art teacher selected two students’ art pieces to be showcased in the exhibit, while middle school and high school art teachers selected three students, Rollo said. Approximately 35 ACPS schools are represented at the Thomas Center exhibit.
“There’s some really stunning work by our students, it’s really incredible to see,” Rollo said.
Buchholz High School represented 12 students at the gallery. Buchholz principal Kevin Purvis said he’s excited about the artistic talent and praised the art teachers for guiding students’ creativity.
“They're passionate about it. They recruit kids and even if we just put kids in there, they take him under their wing and they just teach the kids the love of art, and to show their talents,” Purvis said.
Kristy Foster is one of four art teachers at Buchholz High, teaching Creative Photography I, II and III; AP Photography and Drawing I. Having the opportunity to send three students to the art exhibit was a position she took great pride in.
“I've been doing this for 32 years and it still gives me chills to walk in and see everything hung so beautifully and with such care,” she said.
Kids' creativity is the most important knowledge you can teach them as it helps with every other subject in school, Foster said.
Alisa Schmidt’s photography piece ‘SHADOWS’ hangs on the wall of the Thomas Center. Schmidt, a 17-year-old senior at Buchholz, was selected from Foster’s AP Photography class.
Her photo depicts a girl wearing a white glove staring into a lamp, with black shadows stretching across the dark red wall in the backdrop.
The photo originated from a shadow assignment in Schmidt’s AP Photography class, where she was instructed to shoot 15 photos showcasing camera angle and focal distance skills.
“I just saw this lighting fixture in my friend's house. And when we turned off the lights, and we turned the lamp on, it showed these really cool lines against the wall,” she said. “And so I had her standing there, I guess just with her glove.”
For the shadows assignment, Foster hosted a ‘Shacademy Awards’ activity where her students voted a winner for a variety of photography-related categories, such as “best photo using a person,” “best shadow photo using a household object” and “best color edit.”
“It was an easy choice to pick that one for the Thomas Center gallery because it was so beautiful,” Foster said.
Schmidt has always had a passion for photography and editing, but it wasn’t until taking Foster’s class where she sharpened her craft.
“There's a lot of emphasis on the arts at Buchholz,” she said. “I know that there's many drawing classes and the ceramics class. I know a lot of people that do that, they say it’s really interesting.”
The recognition of seeing her work in a real gallery was an encouraging experience for Schmidt. She plans to study graphic design and continue her passion for creativity when she goes to college at UF.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Alexis_Carson99.
Alexis Carson is a third-year journalism major and staff writer with the Avenue. In her free time, she loves watching horror movies and going to concerts.