For December's opening reception on Sunday, the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri will be serving punch and cookies instead of the usual wine and hors d'oeuvres, but when your featured artists are elementary- and middle-school students, there must be some adjustments.
These students are taking part in the fifth annual Children's Arts Festival, which promotes art education in local classrooms.
This year, 10 local schools participated by having their third- through sixth-grade students create artwork while listening to music recorded specifically for the project. The arts council ultimately chose 80 of the students' works to display in the Lorimier Gallery and Gallery 100 until Dec. 23.
"This is my favorite event that we have. It's pretty fun," said arts council director Becky Fulgham. "It always just amazes me how creative children are. Some of their work is just so good. It's so uninhibited."
An opening reception for the exhibit will be held at 5:30 Sunday, following the festival's 4 p.m. concert at old St. Vincent's Church. The concert will feature performances by the Southeast Chamber Winds, the Southeast Woodwind Quintet and the Southeast Faculty Brass Quintet, as well as the debut of new compositions "Earth Dance" and "Danny's Gig" by Southeast Missouri State University music faculty member Dr. Robert Fruehwald.
Fruehwald composed "Earth Dance" for Central Middle School's instrumental group Shere Khan and based the composition on visits he made to the group's rehearsals as well as an American Indian poem discovered by Central Middle School music teacher Pam Dumey. Shere Khan will perform "Earth Dance" at Sunday's recital and again at the Missouri Music Educators Conference in January.
"Danny's Gig" was written in memory of Dr. Dan Dunanvan, a member of the university music faculty who passed away earlier this year, and will be performed by the Southeast Faculty Brass Quintet.
"The unique thing about this project is it's multidisciplined. It's an art and music project," Fulgham said. "This particular project allows these two disciplines to come together to create something. It shows that music can generate creative ideas that can be translated to the visual arts."
Art teacher Beth Thomas said her third- and fourth-grade students at Franklin and Clippard Elementary Schools enjoyed working on the project.
Before allowing them to create artwork, Thomas had her students listen to the music and then discusse how to visualize what they heard. A rather abstract concept, Thomas said, but one that the students were not afraid to embrace.
"I think because we're working with younger kids they're open to it," she said. "I guess there's always going to be a handful of students that are stuck at first, but I was very happy with the progress they made."
Using construction paper and markers, Thomas' students worked on the project during art class for about two weeks, creating four pieces each that corresponded to different moods inspired by the music. Thomas selected several pieces to send to the arts council, who whittled down the selection even further and came up with five artworks by Clippard students and two by Franklin students to go on display.
"I think the program is wonderful because the students are able to show their work. This is their day and they are celebrated as an artist," Thomas said. And she said there were no hard feelings among those whose work was not chosen to go on display.
"It's really neat how our students are happy for one another," she said.
This is the second year that South Elementary in Jackson has participated in the festival, and art teacher Carol Horst said her students loved being part of the festival last year and are looking forward to Sunday's events. Twelve works from South Elementary students will be on display.
"It's going to be a memory for them forever," Horst said.
Horst used the project as a way not only to teach her students about the connection between music and visual arts, but also to teach them some art history.
"I worked with our music teacher (Pat Palisch) closely. She talked about the structural part of music and different styles and I taught them about different art styles," Horst said. "They learned how the visual arts and the musical arts fit into the history of things."
In addition to the music they listened to, the students used the artistic styles they learned about as inspiration for their own work, which was created using mixed media.
Horst said one of the most important lessons the project taught her students was how to use what she called creative problem-solving skills, where they had to synthesize information and turn it into something different and of interest to them.
She also said they learned about history, how the disciplines interact and how to portray what they think, see, hear and feel in a visual medium.
"It was such a positive experience," Horst said.
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WANT TO GO?
What: Children's Arts Festival
When: Concert at 4 p.m. followed by a reception at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Concert at old St. Vincent's Church and reception at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri