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You gotta have art

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Zane Grimes-Barlow had one big priority in mind when designing her “Jungle Birds” art piece displayed in the Jacksonville Elementary School gym Wednesday night.

“That I made them fancy,” the six-year-old kindergarten student said, pointing at the multicolored, round bird shapes created by her own hand and hanging next to her classmates’ pieces. They had made the artwork in a lesson about color blending.

Grimes-Barlow and her family were one of many dozens that filled the gym-turned-gallery for a perennial celebration in Jacksonville — the school’s Elementary Art Exhibition, which showcases art made by all its students from kindergarten through the sixth grade.

Stacy Branan, a two-time Jacksonville Elementary parent and coordinator for the art show, described the event as a kind of culmination of months of student work, donor support and volunteer perseverance.

“(Students) find it to be rewarding,” she said. “They have this piece of art that they’ve created that they’re able to show off. The community... all come in to see what they’ve done and they’re quite proud of it.

“For me to be able to be a part of that, it’s a very rewarding experience,” she said.

Jacksonville Elementary’s art program is founded firmly on the dedication of its parent-teacher organization, which raises money and musters volunteers to run an art class in each grade level that includes three projects per year for every student.

“Everyone needs art,” said Rebecca Flynn-Williams, coordinator for the school’s art program for three years.

The art education is far from one-dimensional: every lesson is couched in context, and Branan said that art is folded into other subjects from science to social studies, wherever possible. Students also become familiar with art history and techniques by learning about notable artists and their styles.

Around the gym Wednesday night, the classes’ approximately 1,200 art projects were identified with the artist that inspired them, from Matisse to Van Gogh to Cheng-Khee Chee.

The materials incorporated were equally diverse: watercolors and ceramics, wire art and gourd masks inspired by Maya and Aztec masks made in Mesoamerica.

Former students said that the event has a unifying effect on the school community.

“If you come here, you will see that there’s a piece from every single student in the school,” said Will Kranenburg, now a high school student at St. Mary’s School. “Every single student has contributed to this.”

A sense of unity also comes in seeing the work of 65 volunteers come to fruition, Flynn-Williams said.

“It is a focus of this school to keep (art) thriving,” she said. “Without volunteers, this wouldn’t happen.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Fourth-grader Colin Branan shows his artwork being displayed at Jacksonville Elementary Art Show Wednesday evening (Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune)
Stacy Branan straightens Mesoamerican gourd masks created by sixth-graders at the Jacksonville Elementary Art Show Wednesday evening (Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune)