By GLYNIS VALENTI
Times Leader Staff Writer
BELMONT - Union Local art students have done it again. They consistently earn top places in shows throughout the state and have taken the West Virginia University scholarship home from the Annual High School Regional Exhibition at the Stifel Arts Center for the past four years. How do they do it?
Union Local High School art students pose with some of this year’s winning entries, from left, Cecilia Rucker, Hannah Tucker, Rosemary Lancaster, Morgan Edwards, Katie Stoller, Ellie Frazier, Shana Glasgow, Anna Jo Nardo, Anna Frazier, Ellie Knox, Ciara Bom, Raegan Ricer and Kevin Husvar.
Anna Frazier, Union Local senior, took “Best of Show” at the 25th Annual Student Regional High School Exhibition at the Stifel Arts Center in February with her acrylic portrait “Deep in Thought.”
A work in progress by junior Ellie Frazier is a charcoal rendition of an original photograph (at left). The finished piece made it to the top 25 out of 12,000 entries in the annual Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition and is on display at the Ohio Department of Education.
Senior Anna Jo Nardo, this year's WVU full scholarship recipient, and Ciara Bom, also a senior and recipient of a $1,000 WVU scholarship prize in the Stifel show, point to family influences for their interest in art. Bom said her mother's artwork is hanging in their home, and she finds it "inspiring to see her work." Nardo said she's drawn since she was very young, and her father's talent piqued her interest in art.
Another senior, Shana Glasgow, who took second place in painting at Stifel this year and was a 2012-13 Congressional Winner at the Ohio Governor's Youth Art Exhibition, said art was her favorite class in elementary school, but her interest grew in high school when she began "seeing the world from an artistic view." Glasgow also won first place for Illustration and the "Faculty Choice Award" with a $1,000 scholarship last week at West Liberty University's Media Arts and Design Festival (MADfest.)
Anna Frazier, a senior whose acrylic painting captured Stifel's "Best of Show" this year, noted that she began entering and winning coloring contests when she was in preschool. Frazier took third place at the Region #9 Art Show at Mid-East and Technology Centers as well as a past Congressional level runner-up at the Ohio Governor's Youth Art Exhibition. Frazier's and Glasgow's winning pieces hung in Congressman Bill Johnson's Washington, D.C. office.
Anna's sister, Ellie Frazier, is a junior who says she grew up watching her sister produce art and was also influenced by her aunt, a photographer. A charcoal work of Ellie's made this year's top 25 (of 12,000 total entries statewide) and is now in a Cameo Show of the Governor's exhibition at the Ohio Department of Education until May 15.
Other prize winners this year also cite family influences for their interests in art: Morgan Edwards, her sister; Kevin Husvar, his step-father; Aubrey Snider, her grandmother; Katie Stoller, "everyone" in her family. Teachers at Union Local try to develop and channel those interests beginning in elementary school.
Art teacher Shauna Benson, who taught all but one of this year's high school award winners, said, "From the first week of school until the last, I display my students' artwork throughout the school."
This includes a March Music and Art Showcase for grades 1 and 2, and a second for grades 3 and 4. She enters their work in regional and state kindergarten through 8th grade competitions. In November, 4th and 5th grade work is displayed in the student gallery at Artworks Around Town in Wheeling.
Benson introduces her students to different artists and styles and teaches them about art in various cultures.
Sheri McElroy's middle school art curriculum includes art principles and elements. Her 6th and 7th graders learn some art history, and 8th graders learn about art criticism and careers in art-related fields. At this point, students begin exploring their creative talents and interests.
"Many of my middle school students are willing to spend time outside of their normal 45 minute class in order to get that 'perfect' project," McElroy noted. "I've had students spend their flex (study hall) time with me working on paintings and drawings. I've had students sign out supplies on evenings and weekends to work at home."
She said that many of the high school winners "showed promise" in her classes and even won middle school competitions. In fact, some of the students still keep in contact with her. Right now, 15 of McElroy's current students have work on display at the Student Art Show of Excellence at Artworks Around Town. She said nine of these Union Local students have won awards including the "Best of Show."
By the time students reach their fourth year of high school art, according to Lisa Marple, Union Local High School art teacher, they have learned the art elements of design (line, color, value, shape, form, space and texture), the principles of design (balance, proportion, variety, rhythm, pattern, unity, movement, emphasis and harmony), how to critique works of art using description, analysis, interpretation and judgment, and three aesthetic theories of art (imitationalism, formalism and emotionalism).
In preparation for college art courses, Ohio state standards require recalling, identifying and illustrating the various art elements and principles of design to create original and well-balanced pieces. Marple added that she emphasizes originality.
"I have them take the actual picture, then filter or alter it in Adobe Photoshop," she said. "They then create a work of art from that picture. The pieces that are chosen for shows are original work and represent the overall essence of the art elements and principles of design."
She echoed McElroy in noting that some students spend time outside of class on their art projects. Those that do, Marple said, "exhibit more tenacity and greater detail in their work, but for some of these students this personal drive is evident not only in my class but within all classes at Union Local."
"By the time they finish the advanced art classes," she said, "they are able to form and demonstrate personal strategies for lifelong involvement and advocacy in the arts."
Art 4 students help Marple select and prepare works for exhibition. That includes seven to eight shows, two competitions and a couple of volunteer art organization auctions where students' pieces are auctioned for charity.
Winning aside, study after study has proven the academic benefit to art education and participation in the arts for students, translating into up to 40 percent improvement in test scores, which could increase opportunities for college acceptance and scholarships.
"I've been astonished by the caliber of work here," said Union Local Superintendent Douglas Thoburn. "District-wide we have outstanding teachers, and for a rural district, the drama/musical programs are a huge undertaking. Visual arts, music and drama are expensive programs, but our kids deserve and are entitled to have full exposure to programs just like students in Upper Arlington public schools. We have to find ways to make that happen."
Union Local is putting a local, 5-year income tax up for vote on the May 6 ballot for residents and employees in the district. Thoburn said the tax, which does not affect Social Security, oil and gas royalties or property taxes, will directly support updating curricula in various subjects, including the arts. He added his appreciation for the support parents have shown, and noted that the tax will expand the educational opportunities for students.
Here is a list of this school year's student award winners by show.
- Belmont County Fair: first place: Cortney Otto (graphite), Katie Stoller (charcoal), Aubrey Snider (photography); second place: Sarah Martin (colored pencil), Shana Glasgow (scratchboard), Raegan Ricer (scratchboard), Anna Frazier (graphite).
- 25th Annual Regional High School Exhibition at Stifel Arts Center: full WVU scholarship, Anna Jo Nardo; $1,000 WVU scholarship, Ciara Bom; Best of Show, $250 West Liberty prize, Anna Frazier; first place: Katie Stoller (painting), Mikayla Twarog (drawing); second place: Shana Glasgow (painting), Anna Frazier (drawing); third place: Ciara Bom (drawing).
- Region #9 Art Show at Mid-East and Technology Centers: second place: Cecilia Rucker (drawing); third place: Anna Frazier (drawing).
- Governor's Youth Art Exhibition, State Competition, top 3,000 of 12,000 entries: Shana Glasgow, Cecilia Rucker, Anna Frazier, Raegan Ricer, Rosemary Lancaster, Kevin Husvar, Morgan Edwards, Ellie Frazier, Aubrey Snider
- Governor's Youth Exhibition, top 300 Governor's Show and top 25 Ohio Department of Education Show: Ellie Frazier (charcoal, "Vintage Me")
- Media Arts and Design Festival (MADfest,) West Liberty University: Faculty Choice Award with $1,000 scholarship: Shana Glasgow; first place, photography: Hannah Tucker
- Iron Crafters Competition sponsored by Crafts 2000: third place, Sarah Galavich
Union Local will be the featured high school at the Artworks Around Town student gallery for the month of May.
While all of the learning is taking place, many of this year's winners said that they enjoy art because it "helps them relax," "clears the mind," it's a way for them to express themselves, and "it's fun." Several would like to pursue art-related degrees and careers.
Union Local teachers support and encourage the students whether they continue their art interests and education or not. As McElroy said, "Our ultimate goal is their success."
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.