CORRECTION: An article published Friday should have stated that Blue Ridge Arts Council Executive Director Kym Crump organized the Spotlight on Students art display.
By M.K. Luther - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County public school students have displayed their talent and love for art for the past few weeks with the help of the Blue Ridge Arts Council.
Every year in March as part of Youth Art Month, the student artwork is displayed at the Blue Ridge Arts Council Gallery on Main Street.
E. Wilson Morrison first-grader Connie Turck proudly pointed to her rendering of spring flowers hanging on the wall and explained why she loves art.
"Because I get to paint pictures," she said.
The 19th annual Spotlight on Students show ended on Thursday with a reception for the parents and friends of the young artists.
"I think for the community, [the show] really helps to show the community what we are doing," said Kelly Tuma, Warren County High School art and photography teacher.
Charlee Allman, an A.S. Rhodes Elementary third-grader, explained she is so passionate about art that she also takes private lessons.
"I paint things I see -- I paint everything," Charlee said, as she put her skills to use at the reception by helping with a facepainting activity for guests.
Thursday's reception coincided with the start of the Blue Ridge Arts Council's Art Walk, an event held on the third Thursday of each month from April until October. It allows local artists the opportunity to show their work at the Main Street shops along Main Street.
Warren County public schools elementary art teachers Laura Walthall and Allison Cusato helped organize the Spotlight on Students display. Painting, drawings and mixed media from all grade levels were represented, as well as photography from high school students.
In all, about 160 students showed their work, Walthall said.
Walthall teaches art at E. Wilson Morrison, Leslie Fox Keyser and A.S. Rhodes elementary schools. Cusato is the art teacher at Ressie Jeffries and Hilda J. Barbour elementary schools.
Walthall, who received the Blue Ridge Region Elementary Art Teacher of the Year award, and Cusato coordinate the elementary school art curriculum, trying to blend the traditional core principles of design with art history and criticism.
Cusato said the Spotlight on Students show gives the young artists a public venue to show off their work.
"They love it," Cusato said. "It makes them feel special -- almost like they are famous."
For Warren County High School senior Cory Martin, who was introduced to photography in his high school art class, the craft has become more than a required elective or a hobby.
Martin is now enrolled in the high school's advanced photography classes and has applied to Virginia Commonwealth University's photography program.
"I was happy for other people to see my work besides my friend and family," he said.
Andrea Stuart, Warren County High School photography and graphic arts teacher, said the event encourages the students to see themselves as professional and serious artists.
"It really does a lot for their self-esteem," Stuart said. "And it gives them a lot of impetus to go on -- it really gets them excited."