Youth Art Month Exhibit Lets Wisconsin Student Artists Shine Like Athletes | local education

PAMELA COTANT For the State Journal

An annual exhibition that draws attendees from across Wisconsin is considered the state finale for art students.

“It’s like making it to the state basketball tournament. It’s no different. It’s just that your skill is art, not basketball,” said Jen Dahl, Youth Art Month coordinator for the Wisconsin Art Education Association. “It’s the state art competition. This is the best of the best.”

The 2022 State Youth Art Month Exhibition featured approximately 500 artworks made by students enrolled from preschool through 12th grade at 130 schools across the state. Art teachers initially submitted five pieces to be shown at regional shows before the judges narrowed them down to three pieces, which were then explained.

A ceremony was held at the conclusion of Friday’s show and several students received awards for their art. Each year, students also get to design a flag for Youth Art Month, and this year’s winner was Eli Szabo, an eighth grader from Fort Atkinson Middle School.

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Eli Szabo, an eighth grader at Fort Atkinson Middle School, designed the winning flag for this year’s Youth Art Month.


Kainsley Mack, a first year student at Lodi Primary School, received an award for the tiger she created using Sharpie pen, watercolor and tissue paper.

Artwork by Kainsley Mack

Kainsley Mack, a first grader at Lodi Elementary School, received an award for a tiger she created using a Sharpie pen, watercolor paint and pieces of tissue paper that was included in this year’s State Youth Art Month exhibit.


“She’s incredibly proud. … I’ll be honest, she gets dragged to a lot of her brother’s[sports]events,” said Shiloh Mack, Kainsley’s mother. “She sees all the achievements (of her brothers). This was her opportunity to shine.”

While her brothers have little interest in art, Kainsley often draws and paints, her mother said.

Kainsley said the experience was “quite exciting”.

Sandy Osterman, who teaches art at Lodi Primary School, Lodi Elementary School and Ouisconsing School of Collaboration, said she believes the exhibition is important because some students excel in the arts even if they don’t have any other academic inclinations had.

“I just think it’s important to keep art alive. I really think that visual arts, music, sports — all of these are important for having a well-rounded kid,” Osterman said.

Youth Art Month was created in 1961 by the Council for Art Education as an annual celebration in March to highlight the value of arts and arts education for all children and to encourage public support for school arts programs.

In addition to being able to see the art, those attending Friday’s exhibition closure were able to go on a scavenger hunt to find artworks with specific characteristics and complete some art projects.

The closing ceremony keynote speakers and 41 awards for artistic merit were presented by sponsors Sargent Art, Nasco, Blick Art Materials, Vinery, East Towne Mall, the Office of the Governor and the State Department of Public Instruction. The winners received art supplies.

The Grand Prize Spirit of Youth Art Month Award was presented by Blick to Maya Pries, a sophomore at Deerfield High School. She received art supplies and $400.

“That’s all I do,” Pries said of her interest in art.

Her artwork was an oil painting, which was a degree in a “2D Art II class.” It was one of three paintings she created depicting different emotions. The stress and anxiety illustrated in the exhibition and was a self-portrait.

Carrie Schmidt, who teaches art at Deerfield middle and high schools, said Pries was a “great student and really deserved the grand prize.” On the last day of the exhibition, Schmidt was able to bring the three students with artwork into the show and some of Pries’ friends to give her a cheering segment.

“It’s great to have[students]recognized beyond the school and the community,” Schmidt said.

That year, art submitted by teachers who are members of the Wisconsin Art Education Association was also featured in the East Towne Mall exhibit, rather than having a separate exhibit during the organization’s fall conference.

The exhibit has been moved to East Towne from its usual location at the state Capitol, said Dahl, who teaches art at Red Creek and Forrest Street Elementary Schools in Black River Falls. There was discussion about reducing the size of the exhibition to about half, and Dahl said she didn’t want some students to miss out on the opportunity to display their art. It has since been agreed that the exhibit will return to the Capitol, but a decision on whether that will happen has not yet been made.

While the Capitol is “more prestigious,” the mall is “super accessible,” Dahl said, and the Capitol’s limited space doesn’t allow for scavenger hunts and art projects, which were incorporated this year.

Eric Zizich, marketing director for East Towne and West Towne Malls, said the mall is right off a freeway and with ample parking is accessible to parents across the state.

“It seems like a good mix of people looked at (the art),” he said. “It’s just great for us when people come into the mall and have a great place to see the art. It gives us a lot of new buyers.”

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