Youth Arts Month exhibit highlights year-round effort

By Dan Roblee

droblee@mininggazette.com

HANCOCK – March is Celebrate Youth Arts Month, and the Copper Country Community Arts Center is doing just that with an exhibit of about 200 pieces from local K-12 students that will be on display until March 29th, with one picture reproduced most days in The Daily Mining Gazette.

“The artwork is excellent and there are a lot of pieces,” said CCCAC’s Bonnie Loukus. “The pieces are bright and beautiful. With the winter we’ve had, it’s pretty uplifting.”

According to Lake Linden-Hubbell Public Schools K-12 art teacher Danielle Alfafara, the show is important for the area’s budding artists.

“They deserve the praise. It shows the long hours they put in,” she said. “Youth Arts Month is really their time to shine… to recognize they really have their own talent.”

Houghton Elementary second grader Shea Arney, one of those young artists, exhibited a Mola felt-on-felt piece of a dolphin and said she enjoyed sharing it with viewers.

“It feels great,” she said. “I like when people see the art, because it expresses the ocean.”

But for the CCCAC, which maintains one of two rooms used for the Youth Arts Month show as a youth gallery year round, giving students opportunities to create and learn about art continues throughout the year.

That can also be said of local art teachers, many of whom have to split their time between students from kindergarten to 12th grade, finding projects appropriate for all ages and enough personal attention to go around as well.

“We’re fortunate to have some pretty excellent art teachers,” said Loukus, who organized the Arts Month Exhibit. “They manage because they’re passionate about it.”

“Come to the exhibit and you’ll see how well they work with the students, the variety of styles,” she added. “They do a good job of both providing the education and supporting students in finding their own artistic voice.”

Houghton Elementary School art teacher Melissa Hronkin, the National Art Education Association’s Elementary Art Educator of the Year for 2013, wrote in an email that Houghton Elementary students are lucky in that every student gets 55 minutes of art every week.

“We wish it was more, but we are lucky and happy to have it,” she wrote.

Liv Arney, Shea’s twin sister and one of Hronkin’s students, agreed.

“I love art class,” she said. “I love to sketch and draw.”

Many art advocates would like to see students given more art opportunities in the schools, but Loukus acknowledged that public art education is currently on the rebound after a particularly bad stretch.

“Schools that had art programs cut years back are now bringing back art teachers,” Loukus said. “It’s important for students to have that balanced art education.”

Once school is out, for the day or for the summer, the arts center is the primary provider of youth arts education.

A mixed-media visual journals class for 3rd-6th graders just wrapped up, and a six-week explorations in painting class for kindergarten-2nd graders will be beginning April 8. There’s also a new Zine Scene group for 8th-12th grade, which will be ongoing on Thursday’s starting April 3.

The arts center’s signature summer camps will begin in July, with two sessions of the 29th annual Supper Arts Camp for students going into 3rd-6th grades – led by Hronkin – July 21-25 and July 28-August 1. The fourth annual Book Arts Camp for students going into the 8th-12th grades will be held Aug. 11-15.

Loukus said students going into seventh grade may be eligible for either camp, depending on their interests.

To learn more about the camps, including registration deadlines or scholarship opportunities, go to coppercountryarts.com, or call 482-2333.

Loukus said many graduates of CCCAC classes have gone on to careers in the arts, but that learning about art is also valuable for others.

“When you take an art class you learn new ways to see,” she said. “It changes your perspective.”