WEST CHICAGO – From paintings based on classic works of art to Native American-inspired masks, Gallery 200 in downtown West Chicago is celebrating the creativity of local students as part of Youth Art Month.
The gallery’s featured exhibit for March, titled “Art is the Heart of the City,” features more than 50 works of art from West Chicago Elementary School District 33 students.
Organized by the school district and Gallery 200, the second annual show gives students a taste of what it is like to participate in a professional art exhibit and helps to spread the word about the gallery to district families.
With their families in tow, students attended a reception March 7 to kick off the exhibit, and their teachers said it was exciting for the young artists.
“I think they’re very proud to bring their parents and their siblings in to show them what they did,” said Barb Aronson, who teaches art to first- through fifth-graders at Wegner School. “It’s a pretty big honor to have your art in a real gallery.”
Aronson has 13 students who are part of the show. Their pieces include Native American horse masks, pastels of a Japanese red-crowned crane, recreations of famous paintings such as Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and more.
For her, it was nice to be able to acknowledge her students in a special way for their hard work.
“I just think that our district supports the arts so well,” Aronson said. “It’s amazing. I feel very fortunate.”
Leman Middle School art teacher Linda Rooney, who teaches two-dimensional art to seventh-graders, has nine students participating in the exhibit.
While the prospect of being chosen for the Gallery 200 show encourages students to work hard and do their best, Rooney said many of her students are very receptive to art and don’t need any outside motivation.
And for some students, art may be the area where they excel, as opposed to seeing success in sports or traditional academic subjects.
“And yet, they could be amazing artists,” Rooney said.
The honor of being part of the gallery exhibit helps to increase students’ self-esteem and strengthen their interest in the arts, she said.
Her students are displaying black ink prints, colored pencil and marker designs, watercolor collages, pastel landscapes, and oil pastel and tempera paintings in the show.
The theme of “Art is the Heart of the City” reflects how art benefits the city and reflects its culture, said Gallery 200 administrator Heide Morris, who retired in 2004 after teaching art in District 33 for 34 years.
In the past, the gallery had featured a “Student of the Month,” but having a full student show is new, Morris said.
After a successful first year and what looks to be a promising second year, the gallery hopes to continue its partnership with District 33 for the foreseeable future to bring “Art is the Heart of the City” to its visitors, she said.
“I think it’s one of the goals of the gallery to bring in the community, and the families and the kids are part of that,” Morris said.
If you go
What: "Art is the Heart of the City" When: Noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Where: Gallery 200, 200 Main St., West Chicago