Sometimes all it takes is a small spark to ignite a fire.
As Charleston’s 10-day art and community festival, FestivALL, fills the streets this month, Art-for-ALL gives children as young as 4 years old the chance to fuel their own artistic passions.
“We want to create career paths or avocational paths for kids in the arts,” said Betty Rivard, producer of the student art exhibition on display inside the Clay Center lobby.
Held in conjunction with FestivALL, it’s an opportunity for students in pre-K through sixth grade in Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam counties to display their artwork.
“We really just want to give kids an outlet to express themselves in the community,” said Mallory Burka, FestivALL visual arts intern. “This is probably their first time really getting involved in the community, and it’s really good for them being in a gallery and especially for them to be rewarded for it.”
The works are on display throughout the duration of FestivALL.
Students were invited to submit a single piece of art work. They could submit a painting, drawing, photograph, collage, mixed-media, print, graphic, sculpture, pottery, woodcraft, glass, jewelry, textile or construction with recycled materials. They could also opt to submit a video up to five minutes long.
A jurying process was completed for Art-for-ALL. FestivALL staff and local artists looked for individuality and originality in the submissions.
“Think about all of the different programs kids do at schools like band, sports and show choir,” Rivard said. “They have all of these structures for competition. I don’t really like competition, but there’s a place for it. This is designed to be a competition for artists and to really give the kids who have special gifts and special interests a way to promote their work and take it to the public.”
Art-for-ALL received 270 to 280 pieces, Burka said. Last year, they had around 175 pieces.
In addition to the student-submitted work are some group projects. Mountaineer Montessori School, for example, is showcasing living paintings they had photographed by local photographers this spring. Other group projects include blankets and collages.
The Partnership of African American Churches allowed its after school program at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center to participate in Art-for-ALL this year. The program has 163 students enrolled and an average daily attendance of about 112.
“King Center is less than a half a mile from everything that goes on with FestivALL, but at the same time, none of the kids in the community were exposed to what happened at FestivALL, what it’s all about or anything,” said Edna Green, associate director of the Partnership of African American Churches. “So there’s access and abilities to get to it, but being able to get the information in the communities and getting people involved [is challenging].”
The program at King Center gets involved with FestivALL by selling artwork and crafts at the Children’s Art Fair. By showcasing their work in the Art-for-ALL public exhibition, that brings a new sense of confidence to the children. It’s something they have looked forward to, Green said.
“They have tapped into creativity that they didn’t even know they had,” Green said. “They are actually impressing themselves and, to me, impressing yourself is another way of saying increasing self-esteem because you’re doing something you had no idea you could do. I cannot wait until they see their art hanging here.”
The exhibition is open now through June 25 in the lobby at the Clay Center. A reception and awards ceremony will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. June 24. Awards will be given for first, second and third place for young students as well as older ones. All students will receive a participation award.
“The ultimate goal is to have maybe Art-for-ALLs in all of the [six] counties,” Burka said. “We’re trying to influence that.”
Reach Anna Taylor at email@example.com, 304-348-4881 or follow @byannataylor on Twitter.