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Youth Art Month celebrates young talent
"My Horse Mini," mixed media by Amanda Warren, a senior at North Hall High School.

They’ve toiled through history papers, science projects and assigned reading. Through it all, they kept creating art.

Now, local students can finally take a breath, step back and enjoy their work during Youth Art Month, a celebration of artistic endeavors put on by the Kiwanis Club. And in conjunction with the Quinlan Visual Arts Center, student artists will be able to show their work in a professional gallery through the end of the month.

It’s part of an annual competition held by Kiwanis, which is open to students in grades sixth through 12th and awards scholarships from the Charles J. Thurmond Youth Art Scholarship Fund to winners in 10th through 12th grades. The competition also includes awards in writing and performing arts, given out earlier this month.

The Quinlan pairs with Kiwanis every year to provide a place to show the students’ work. The opportunity really inspires the kids, said Amanda Kroll, assistant director at the Quinlan.

"And the kids are making some really mature, developed art, and it’s really fantastic," Kroll said.

There is a large amount of talent in area high schools, Kroll said, and many of the kids are even working on their art outside of class.

"I think that some of these kids are taking some initiative, too. This is not just stuff they created in the classroom; this is stuff they have gone home and made because they really want to put their best foot forward in this competition," she said. "And if they win, they get a check to the school of their choice."

The exhibition is also a great way to watch students mature into their own style, she said. By looking at the students’ art year after year, Kroll said, she has seen many students’ work evolve.

"One of our favorite things to do is watch someone we saw in the ninth grade, and we see them come back year after year, and it’s bittersweet (when they show as a senior) but a lot of times they’re going off to art school, to Ringling or SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design).

Allie Stephens, a senior at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, is showing her photographs at the Quinlan. She already has a scholarship offer from the Maryland College of Art and Design in Baltimore, and said the Kiwanis arts showcase is something the students look forward to.

"At Lakeview, they’ve given us opportunities, with the Quinlan and Kiwanis," she said, adding the school tries to raise the visibility of the students’ work in several competitions. "They’re really good about getting it out there."

Clayton Santiago, who teaches Stephens at Lakeview, along with classes from ninth through 12th grades, said seeing their peers win scholarship money helps motivate the students to submit some really great artwork, too.

"We push visibility, and we push being in local competitions," Santiago said. "We focus on turning out really strong artwork coming from the students."

The competition is a chance to see the fruits of a year of books, term papers and hard work.

"It’s a really big deal for them, and they bring some of the most fresh, original art that we have here all year," Kroll said. "It’s another opportunity for these kids to see where art can take them."