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Student art gets gallery showing 

Byron Center — Countryside Elementary fourth-grader Fiona Bartolotti and her mom searched for her artwork on the fifth floor of Western Michigan University’s Grand Rapids offices, 200 Ionia Ave. SW.

Once they found it on display, Fiona explained to her mom how she made her dark print with silver details, titled “Illuminated Letter.”

“I made a stamp out of foam and pressed it onto the foil,” she said. “Penguins and owls are my favorite animals, so I had fun adding them in.”

In addition to creating a work of art for class, Fiona said her art teacher, Chelsea Clark, taught students how to write about what they learned in the form of a learning statement.

Fiona’s read: “This work allowed me to explore printmaking. The most important thing I learned was when you engrave, make sure you do not break the foam by pressing too hard. You also have to make sure it has enough ink when you make a print.”

Second-grader Addysen Sandera from Countryside Elementary explored architecture for her artwork at the MAEA Showcase

Fiona was one of five students from Countryside whose art was chosen by Clark for the annual Michigan Art Education Association Showcase

Associated with the National Art Education Association, the MAEA offers opportunities for students and for teachers, including regional and state art shows, to promote art education and professional development. 

Student art from Marshall Elementary, Brown Elementary, Nickels Intermediate, West Middle School and Byron Center High School were also on display Feb 1-20 alongside schools from across Michigan.  

“We’ve been working on projects throughout the year and I chose the ones that were shining, from students who spent extra time and focused on their pieces,” Clark said. 

Beyond creating art for a class project, Clark said it was important to her that students can talk about their work and explain what they learned. 

“I talked with my students and they answered some prompts to tell me more about their art and why they chose what they did,” she said. “Some of what they shared I hadn’t heard from them in class before.”

Marshall Elementary art teacher Jessica Dost said she chose five pieces from students who went above and beyond.

“It’s amazing to see them get excited about their work, and seeing it all come together in a more professional setting outside of the classroom,” Dost said. 

Another goal of Clark’s is to engage all kinds of interests, including students who may prefer math and science over art. 

She added: “Having their art displayed downtown in a gallery, students are no longer just making art for school; they say ‘I’m an artist.’”

The MAEA Showcase displayed artwork from students across West Michigan
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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. 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, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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