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‘Wow, I’m a real artist’

Citywide Art Show offers ‘life-changing’ experience for student artists

Photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick

Grand Rapids  — Innovation Central High School senior Caitlyn Battle and her family were on a mission to find her watercolor painting. 

On the fifth floor of Western Michigan University Grand Rapids, 200 Ionia Ave. SW, there is art as far as the eye can see.

Their search ended with help from Innovation Central art teacher Carolyn Hintz, and Caitlyn’s mother shared the reason why her daughter came home crying from school: She had received her acceptance letter from her dream school, Ferris State University, where she will pursue her goal of becoming an art teacher.

‘What we do matters and shows students they are valued and have a bright future.’

– Maggie Malone, GRPS fine arts director

Teachers selected student art from all grades, schools and abilities to put on display at the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ 2022 Citywide Art Show.

The show opened with a reception on April 27 and runs through Friday, May 6.

Ottawa Hills art teacher Tiffany Oliver said she felt “so proud of our students and impressed by the work they produced.” 

“We’re so thankful for this,” she said, “It boosts (students’) confidence to see their art on display.”

Oliver teaches upper level painting and printmaking art classes, while her colleague Joe Martin teaches art foundations for freshmen and sophomores. 

“I try to keep art projects fun and am just trying to teach (students) that they can do art,” Martin said. “I know not everyone is going to be an artist or love art, but anyone has the ability to create art.”

Union High School sophomore Angela Perez Velasquez, far right, admires cardboard sculptures with her sister, fourth-grader Sheila Perez Velasquez, and her mom, Teresa Velasquez

Show Resumes Post-pandemic 

This art show marks the first since 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic. 

GRPS Fine Arts Director Maggie Malone said the WMU gallery space was a “point of pride” for the citywide art show.

“We strive to display student artworks like professionals, providing the opportunity for our students to see themselves as real artists,” she said. “We’re really excited to show student work and have people gather in a unique space.”

Malone also described the art show as “life-changing” for students.

“The most rewarding part is right now. What we do matters and shows students they are valued and have a bright future,” she said. “I watched one student walk in and say, ‘Wow, I’m a real artist.’” 

Riverside Middle School seventh-grader Sophie Kempen brought her mom, dad and sister to see her watercolor painting of a bunny on display.

She explained how she experimented with different types of art in class and liked watercolor the best.

“I used a white gel pen to create dots and swirls on top and chose orange and yellow for the background,” Sophie said. “It all ended up looking like fall colors.”

She added: “It was really cool to see (my art) on the wall and see my friend’s art too.”

The WMU gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is free and open to the public.

Pumpkins painted by the fourth-graders at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary are displayed at GRPS’ 2022 Citywide Art Show
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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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