When you’re a student athlete, you can show off your skills on the field or court. When you’re involved in your school’s theater department or forensics team, the stage is your showcase. But when you’re a student artist, your talents can be overlooked, according to Lynn Heidemann, owner of Steele Street Trading Co. and Gallery.
“I really feel, in these small rural communities, that some of the young creatives are falling between the cracks, and they need a place to showcase their work, kind of like an athlete showcases their work at a game,” Heidemann said.
That’s why she’s filling her gallery with student artwork in conjunction with Kewaunee ArtBeet’s Youth Art Month (YAM) throughout March. It’s also why the program began, according to Erin LaBonte, who’s helping to coordinate the event.
“By exhibiting their work, they get the opportunity to have a voice and recognition,” LaBonte said.
Youth Art Month is a national celebration that ArtBeet joined in 2022, according to YAM committee chair Erin Dahle. The local program was small during its first year, but she hopes to see it gain momentum.
“Our hope is that the growth of this event will create a sense of camaraderie for these artists within our community, much as athletics does,” Dahle said.
Heidemann isn’t the only gallery owner who’s lending wall space to student art this month. Other venues throughout Algoma – Ladybug Glass, Yonder, Robert Ray Gallery, Bayshore Outfitters, Clay on Steele, the Pottery Co-op and Yardstick Books – are doing the same.
In addition to gallery exhibits, YAM includes a student open-mic night, a field trip for students to tour local galleries and meet their owners, and a series of student-art workshops in Kewaunee and Algoma.
Those workshops cover topics ranging from sewing to papier-mâché to monotype to pinch pots. Near the end of the month, Patti Raine will lead a photography workshop that covers the basics of aperture, shutter speed and composition. But more importantly, she hopes it will inspire student artists.
“I just love seeing the excitement in their eyes when they’re encouraged to use their creativity and imagination,” Raine said. “They’re being seen in a different way than they would be at school, and their art is appreciated.”
Yardstick Books’ Heidi Raak will lead another YAM workshop. A bookstore might seem like an unconventional participant in an art program such as YAM, but she recognizes the importance of art as much as participating artists and gallery owners do.
“[Art] gives us all a better quality of life,” Raak said. “Art education, reading – they’re important for critical thinking and being a good member of society.”
For last year’s YAM, Yardstick hosted a bookmark workshop in conjunction with an author reading; this year, its workshop will focus on making zines, or tiny booklets that typically combine words and pictures. It’s perhaps the most linear form of storytelling in any of the YAM workshops, but Raine said youth can tell their stories through all media.
“Being creative helps you cope with your feelings and fears, and manage your emotional states,” which is especially important for young people, Raine said. “When I get up and take pictures, it soothes my soul, and I see that with these kids.”
Find out more about the YAM exhibits and workshops at artbeetkc.square.site/youth-arts-month-2022.