Students draw inspiration from real-life heroes at district art show


Megan Lawrence was awarded first place in ninth grade for her monochromatic collage of J.K. Rowling during the Mounds View Public School District annual art show. She took one liberty by making the face white, which served to heighten the contrast. (Bridget Kranz)

Teachers didn’t necessarily announce the showcase to their classes during the year; most students were surprised and excited to learn that their work would be displayed for the public. (Bridget Kranz photos)

Senior Sophia Jideofor combined her interest in art and the military by painting a friend who is currently serving in the Marines. She’s headed to basic training with the Army National Guard this summer.

Students in the Mounds View Public School District got a taste of the art world on April 29, as a temporary gallery sprung up at Irondale High School. 

Folding panels and tables lined the main hallway, displaying every medium imaginable: weavings, ceramics, paintings, photographs and more.  

Going on 20 years, the district-wide art show is an annual tradition, with every art teacher, from kindergarten through high school, submitting 15 pieces of student work. At this year’s opening, Irondale teacher Scott Krohn estimated there were a few hundred community members in attendance.

“It was excellent, this place was packed,” said Krohn, adding that the event also included face painting and music from local musicians.

For the first time this year, a jury of teachers also selected a first and second place winner in each grade, which came as a surprise to many of the awardees. 

“I hadn’t actually seen [my piece], but my brother was there for an A.P. European History review and he said, ‘Hey, did you know that yours got first in all of ninth grade?’” recalled Megan Lawrence, who won with her expressionistic collage of author J.K. Rowling. “That felt really good.”

 

“I’m pretty involved in showing my own work,” said Krohn, of the initial idea to present awards. “I thought it would be a good experience for the students to go beyond just displaying, to add at least a small element of recognition.”

Having a teacher like Krohn, who practices as an artist outside of the classroom, has been inspiring to students, who get a glimpse of what it can mean to have a career in fine art. Involving youth in a juried show also provided a window into a profession that can seem abstract; still, some of the students who won awards plan to keep up with art only as a hobby. 

“It’s pretty common for our high-flying art students to also be high flyers in other areas; I see that quite a bit, where they’ll go on to engineering or something like that,” said Krohn. “But every once in a while, we do have students that go onto art school and explore art as a career.”

Krohn was one such student, having attended school in the district before becoming a teacher and practicing artist. 

Senior Sophia Jideofor, who had four pieces in the show with one winning first place, has an entirely different career plan. She’s on contract with the Army National Guard, and will leave for basic training this summer. 

On display at the show was her portrait of a friend who entered the Marine Corps after immigrating to the U.S. in high school. Jideofor saw him make the transition to a completely new place, admiring his optimism. 

“Instead of complaining, he took it as an opportunity and always did his best,” she said. “He was in school sports, in everything, and he just really was a teammate. Whatever you needed, he was there.”

In this instance, art became a way to commemorate someone important; more often, Jideofor uses it as a way to relieve stress. Thinking ahead to basic training, she plans to continue drawing as a way to clear her head. 

While students cycle through Irondale, a strong art program remains a constant, attracting those who like to create in their spare time, those who want to try something new and those who continue on to creative careers. Offerings include painting and drawing, as well as ceramics and even graphic design.

“It seems like every year our numbers are good and continuing to grow,” said Krohn. “For an elective subject, your job really depends on building your program and having kids sign up. We have a lot of interest in art; I think we had approximately 1,100 students out of our 1,600 total that signed up for an art class this year.”

For many, the freedom and personal nature of art fills a gap in their schedules. Not only are students given the opportunity to explore a wide range of new techniques, they’re also given the opportunity to explore their own thoughts and opinions.

“In other classes, you have a strict thing that you need to follow. In art, you get to make your own decisions,” said Lawrence. “There’s just a basic outline. And you can put some of yourself into what youíre doing.”

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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