Annual exhibit showcases talent of high school artists

Monday, March 7, 2011
High school students accept their awards Sunday during the 33rd annual High School Art Exhibition at the River Campus. (Laura Simon)

When professor Edwin Smith launched the first Southeast Missouri State University High School Art Exhibition in 1979, he didn't expect it to turn into the event it has become today.

"Our major reason to start this high school show was to give recognition to high school students who were doing well in the visual arts and recognize them and give them a place to show their work," said Smith, who retired from the university as head of the art education department in 2007.

What began as a symposium to give Southeast's faculty an opportunity to work with area high school art teachers and critique the work of their promising students soon turned into a juried competition that has become an important recruiting event to attract students to the university's art program.

The 33rd annual High School Art Exhibition was Sunday at Crisp Museum at the university's River Campus.

This year's competition featured 250 entries from 19 area high schools. Of those entries, 90 were selected for the "Exhibiting Excellence" exhibit that will be on display at the museum through March 27.

Cape Girardeau Central High School student Colton Peterson's fibers piece is seen Sunday during the 33rd annual High School Art Exhibition.

Awards were given to 36 works of art in the categories of ceramics, drawing, fibers, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. Amy Walden on Poplar Bluff High School received the Best in Show award for her painting on canvas inspired by author Pearl S. Buck.

Current Southeast art instruction chair Carol Horst said the exhibition has seen the largest opening for any exhibit at the museum.

"It has been the premier high school art exhibition in this area," she said.

Smith said the exhibit is a great way for the university to get exposure to and communication with future students.

"In the art department we find that this is the best recruitment tool we could ever find," Smith said.

Cape Girardeau Central High School art teacher Judy Barks-Westrich has participated in the exhibit from the beginning.

"I started out at the first one, and I've been doing it ever since," said Barks-Westrich, who is in her 39th year teaching high school art. She will be retiring after this year.

"It's a wonderful thing that the university does that helps us do our job and at the same time gives us more accountability and does spark the interest of the community and the parents," she said.

This year's event was juried by a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who judged the entries based on message, creativity and technical proficiency.

Central had the most entries selected for the exhibit with 21, 11 of which won awards. Notre Dame Regional High School and Scott City High School each have 9 entries.

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