- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - If you walk into art galleries around Bloomington this month, you may encounter paintings, sculptures and sketches from emerging artists. They’re K-12 students from the Monroe County Community School Corp., and their creativity and imagination can be found in the Indiana University Art Museum and the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center and By Hand Gallery downtown.

“This has never happened to me before. It feels pretty good,” said Emily Miller, a 9-year-old student from Summit Elementary, of seeing her work hanging up at the By Hand Gallery.

Emily created a black-and-white sketch of a young hand, which shows the shadow of the palm and fingers behind it. She observed her own hand to make the drawing. “I wanted to do something realistic,” Emily told The Herald-Times (http://bit.ly/1lRVPTk ).

As she checked out the paintings and drawings of other students, Emily was impressed with what she saw. “It’s amazing,” Emily said of other students’ art. “I never expected these from a first-grader,” she said and pointed to a mixed media piece featuring a robot.

One of the robots was created by Samantha Haak, a first-grader at Rogers Elementary. Seven-year-old Samantha said she had trouble getting the robot’s red, spiraling antennas and mouth to stick.

She described the painstaking process of gluing the pieces on, then holding them down with tape while they dried so they would stay in place. It took her a few days to get her robot just right.

The robot’s body is made of brown rectangular and square pieces Samantha painted. Metal bolts, buttons, bottle lids and pop tabs make up the robot’s knee caps, eyes and shoulders. One white bead with a red letter “S” looks like the robot’s belly button, and that’s Samantha’s favorite part.

“I like the bead in the middle because it has the first letter of my name,” she said. From her point of view, being an artist means “to be creative, and to paint, draw and do collage.” When people drop in to By Hand Gallery to see her work, “I hope they’re surprised,” Samantha said.

Stopping by any place in town where MCCSC students’ work is displayed will offer more than surprise. Each student’s work offers something different, and they draw from their own imaginations as well as what they experience in the world around them.

For instance, Stav Katz, a 9-year-old Binford Elementary student, drew inspiration from online music videos to create her painting that features a group of dancers against a bright background.

“It took a long time to find the right colors,” Stav said. Of the various shades of blue, purple and yellow that create the backdrop of her piece, Stav said her favorite color is an orangey yellow. The colors represent lights behind the group of nine dancers who are dressed all in pink. One man at the center wears a black suit and sunglasses, and Stav acknowledges the “Gangnam Style” song may have had an influence on her work.

Stav used a ruler to draw the lines and create perspective, with the bright colors behind the dancers meeting at a point in the center. It’s a technique she learned from her teacher to show that some dancers are boogying in the foreground while others are grooving further away.

All of the works of MCCSC students showcased around town are part of Indiana University’s 19th annual Youth Art Month exhibition. “It’s a great multigenerational program,” said Edward Maxedon, curator of education at the IU Art Museum. The students’ art draws hundreds to the museum and is an opportunity for families and their children to celebrate the budding artists.

Karen Miller, Emily’s mom, shot a picture of her daughter as she stood beside her sketch. “I’m so proud of her,” Miller said. “She’s really interested in art, and I think this is going to help continue her interest.”

From Maxedon’s point of view, seeing the students’ work displayed at the gallery is eye-opening. “You’d be surprised to see such sophisticated artwork from kindergarten or first-graders,” he said. “There are beautiful examples of drawing, paper cut, print making,” he said.

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