Student Art Show at MONA

Christie Heacock takes a photo of her daughter’s artwork at a reception for student artists Tuesday at the Museum of Nebraska Art. The show featured work by her daughter, Emma, 12, a student at Horizon Middle School. Christie’s other daughter, Sophia, 9, looks on with Christie’s husband, Tom. The artworks from Kearney area middle school students will be on display through Sunday at MONA.

KEARNEY — Kearney Catholic High School art teacher Sarah Hall considers the Student Art Show at the Museum of Nebraska Art as the final step in an educational journey.

“This show means everything to the students,” she said. “This is like a full, entire culmination of their work. The students get to come and see everything they’ve put their blood, sweat and tears into. It’s been a process, it’s been a journey — and they get to see it on the walls under these beautiful lights, in this beautiful setting. They get to feel the pride that I feel for them every day.”

Hall, along with several hundred students, parents, patrons and school administrators, attended the opening reception for the Student Art Show, presented Tuesday by the MONA Guild at the museum. The show honored the artwork of middle school students from Kearney Catholic High School, Horizon and Sunrise middle schools.

The exhibit continues on display at the museum through Sunday. Admission to the museum is free.

Hall noted that a display of artwork by budding artists can give a large boost to the students.

“Who doesn’t want their artwork hung in an art gallery?” she asked. “It makes them seem so important — and they are important.”

The exhibit contains examples of the students’ work, exploring different techniques and styles of art.

Kent Edwards, superintendent of Kearney Public Schools, acknowledged the role of art in the schools and the community.

“Art and music really stand the test of time,” he said. “They really depict what is important in our thoughts and our spiritual life. This is an amazing showcase. A lot of time we try to copy and mimic, but art is really about ‘you.’ Art speaks to us as a community, a state and a country, but it also speaks to us as individuals.”

Greg Yochum, art instructor at Horizon Middle School, understands how a student art show can help the young artists see the value of their work.

“This lets them know what it’s like to be a famous artist and to have their art displayed in a big museum setting,” he said. “And MONA gets more people in the doors and exposes more people to art. And that public exposure is a good thing for our community.”

Yochum believes in giving choices to his students.

“I’ll have a set idea for a project,” he said. “I’ll give them some examples and we’ll talk about art history and the background of different artists. Sometimes, the projects are based on a style of a famous artist.”

He tends to leave the subject matter and the content up to his students.

“I’ll guide them and get them to thinking,” Yochum said. “I’ll get them to think about why they are choosing certain things. We also learn things like color theory, which helps them to develop their skills.”

The teacher recognizes that not every student will excel in art. Regardless of the skill set of the students, Yochum hopes to instill a love of creativity and exploration.

“You have to realize that not every one of your students is an artist — and not all of them are going to be,” he said. “What I hope to accomplish is to give my students a love for art and an appreciation so that it carries on to the next generation. If we don’t grow a new appreciation for art through our kids, then we’re going to end up losing it.”

At the end of the school year, Yochum hands back the artwork of the student with a simple wish: “Don’t throw it away in front of me. I tell them to take their artwork home to their parents and show them what we’ve been doing, tell them what you’ve learned.”

Both Yochum and Hall hope to reinforce the creative and playful side of art, while helping their students to find pride in their work.

“A lot of the time these kids don’t get the recognition they deserve,” Hall said. “They are rock stars and I am so blessed to have them as students.”