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The Scholastic Art Awards is a must-see exhibit

There are new shows going on at WAM and the Ulrich right now that I will soon view, but the most important exhibition on my must-see list this week was the Scholastic Art Awards, currently on view at Mark Arts.

The annual show, 100 years old this year, is made up of painting, clay, photography, print making, and mixed media entries by high school aged students from around the state. As students create works in school art classes through the year their teachers seek out the best works and suggest that they be entered. After entry the works are then judged by art professors and professional artists. The winners receive coveted silver and gold key awards.

I remembered that I had several pieces entered when I was in high school, works suggested by my beloved art teacher at Wichita East High, Annie Lowry. Her praise of my work meant the world to me and sent me on my way to becoming the artist I am today.

Among my favorite works in this show were the many clay entries by the students of celebrated clay artist and teacher Brenda Lichman, who, as it happens, also teaches at Wichita East. The imagination and technical skill in these works are amazing.

As you gaze at the many works you realize that these students have poured all they have into each piece. The heart, and a little innocence in each work is wonderfully apparent. You remember how exciting, huge, and daunting life was at that age, and how each victory was colossal.

The importance of such an event has weight far beyond a silver or gold key award.

The Scholastic Art Awards—on view now at Mark Arts.

Curt Clonts is a Wichita-born artist who volunteers as KMUW's art reviewer. When Curt isn’t working in his College Hill studio he is usually spending time with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He also spends the spring and summer months kayaking and camping.