Few people can say that they have had artwork displayed in an accredited museum, but that isn’t true for the students in and around Abilene. For years now, The Grace Museum has set aside four weeks every year to celebrate students and their great accomplishments. The Youth Art Month Exhibition is the largest exhibit of works that The Grace holds each year. Over 1,000 pieces from dozens of area schools are hung floor to ceiling, covering every available spot of wall in the second floor galleries. Work by students from kindergarten to seniors from approximately 10 different school districts is on view for thousands of guests to enjoy—and they do.
If you have never been to a Youth Art Month opening, you might be surprised when you come. You might expect to see students, parents and grandparents, but that’s really just the beginning. Nearly all area art educators attend the annual event, as well as school administration and principals. You will see area newspaper and media crews mingling and speaking to students about their work. The opening is a four-hour, come-and-go event that has grown as large as 2,400 visitors. Artwork is also videoed and put on The Grace Museum’s website and organized by school for easy viewing. Students and their families receive free passes to return and see their art up all month long; 250-300 family passes are used each year.
“Youth Art Month is the highlight of our year,” said Director of Education Kathryn Mitchell. “We get to greet proud parents and nervous kids. We see kids taking photos by their artwork and interviewing with the paper. We see lots of students hugging their art teachers and saying, ‘Wow!’ when they walk into the gallery. The very best part is the smiling faces of so many from our community coming together to celebrate their kids.”
Youth Art Month is a tremendous undertaking. Each art teacher is responsible for matting and labeling all their students’ work. They are limited to how many works they can bring, so they also have a very hard job of choosing which pieces will be displayed. Each teacher then has to bring the artwork to The Grace. Once here, dozens of volunteers and museum staff spend just four days hanging all of the work and getting refreshments ready for the large reception on opening night.
Participating art teacher, T. Rowlings, from Loraine ISD, beautifully sums up the impact of Youth Art Month: “It is so inspiring for these students to see their work in an art museum. There is nothing that compares to the exhilaration of seeing your art matted and hung on a wall in a gallery. It validates their creative efforts and dreams. As they look at all of the art created by students in our region, the students get new ideas and are motivated to try new things and continue making art. During these times, art is more important than ever in our schools. It heals hearts and relationships, reinforces and connects all academic subjects, and allows young people to express something beautiful in a world that has seemed a little dark. Youth Art Month allows us to spotlight the necessity of art in our schools.”
The Grace Museum’s Youth Art Month 2022 exhibition is on view February 17-March 17, 2022.
Contributed By The Grace Museum