Visual Arts Day: A Chance to Learn and Connect
Missouri Western’s third annual Visual Arts Day was held on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. High school students from the St. Joseph and Kansas City area were welcomed to Potter Hall for this day of learning, competing and connecting.
A high school art teacher from Dekalb High, Laurie Atkins, had the opportunity to bring her students to Visual Arts Day for the first time this year.
“I’d talked to some of the other teachers who had brought their students, and they talked about what a great day it was,” said Atkins. Visual Arts Day gives teachers a chance to share ideas and get more involved with their students. Many teachers participate along side their students in workshops and compete in their own “3-Throw Competition” in the ceramics shop.
The hallways were crowded with the 900 students that attended this year’s program. After registering with their school, the young artists were set loose to decorate the hallways with their work. The All Media Student Art Exhibition allowed students the opportunity to showcase their artwork and to see the work of their contemporaries.
“I’m very impressed by a lot of the drawing and sculpture projects I’ve seen,” Atkins said. “I think it’s good for them to see the artwork that other students are doing. It gives the chance to say ‘hey maybe I could do something like that’ instead of a teacher just telling them how to do things. It’s good for them to see what other kids can do.”
A large variety of workshops were available for students in the Potter classrooms. Some of these workshops included the “3-Throw Competition”, Painting and Digital Animation. It gave participants the opportunity to try their hand at new art forms and meet fellow artists.
“Coming here helps you a lot to see how to express yourself – how other people do it,” said Morgan Rich, a junior from Mid Buchanan High School. “If you find other people that do this stuff, they’re easier to get along with. It’s like your group of people.”
“It helps me realize where I need to be going towards,” said Rich. “It helps you realize what it [art] really is; it’s not just drawing and painting things.” Rich plans to pursue a future in the art realm after graduation. This was her second year at the Visual Arts Days and she is considering joining Missouri Western’s art program.
“We’ve got a really good school here,” said Dr. Allison Sauls. “We’re the best kept secret of the state as far as our art department is concerned. It’s really a good art department; I would like to see some of the really good students come and see what we’re doing.”
Sauls is a professor of art history at Missouri Western and has watched Art Day grow over the past three years. “We had a big group last year…this year was just packed,” said Sauls. She also had some advice for the incoming art majors.
“Just know, right up front, you’re going to have to work hard,” said Sauls. “It’s not just puppies and fuzzy kittens, you got to work hard. And when you get out of here, although this is a terrific school, you’re going to be up with people from Harvard and big schools. You’ve go to get out there and show them that you’ve studied: you studied more than we’re giving you.”
The person who has had the biggest influence in Missouri Western’s Visual Arts Day is probably David Harris. His history with Art Day has helped this program become a major event for the art students of local schools. “Missouri Western had an art day back in the mid-70s,” said Harris. “I participated in one of those as a student.” When Harris taught at a community college in Kansas he got his start helping in Art Days. When he came to Missouri Western he was asked organize a similar event for the university.
“I worked on it a couple years trying to get it connected to art teachers and the state,” said Harris. “And then three years ago we had our first one, and I think we had almost 500 students that first year, about 700 the next year, and then 900 this year.”
Visual Arts Day wouldn’t have been able to grow to such an impressive size if it weren’t for the help of the entire art department.
“There is no way that we could do this without every single person being involved,” Harris said. “In fact, all the faculty has helped tremendously. The workshops and everything that happens that day, if it wasn’t for the rest of the faculty, there is no way we could do this. No way.”
With the help of so many faculty members and Missouri Western students, Visual Arts Day has grown and improved remarkably in these past three years.
“I would say Missouri Western’s Art Day is the premiere art event in the state,” said Harris. “I think the kids like it because it’s workshop-oriented. They have an art show, but there are also workshops where they can get involved. They can actually produce something, and I think it makes a real connection with high schools students because they’re touching things and making things.”
While students jump between workshops creating new things and competing against each other, the goal of Visual Arts Day is to unite artists.
“We get high school students coming in, their high school maybe has 10 or 20 people who are sort of in the arts,” said Harris. “They feel a little bit isolated because there’s 500 kids in the school and there’s 15 people who are sort of artists at their soul. And when they get here they sort of realize there’s a lot more people who feel the way they do.”