The Coos Art Museum has been taken over by artwork from Southern Oregon students.
The entire downstairs is filled with the Student Biennial show, which showcases paintings, sculptures and more from students in pre-K to 12th grade. The majority of the work is from students in Coos County, but work from young artists in Douglas, Curry and other counties are also on display.
Upstairs, both exhibition halls are filled with the annual VISION Art Competition, a project co-sponsored by Southwestern Oregon Community College. The art in the competition is from high school students, with the top three artists as chosen by judges receiving scholarships to Southwestern Oregon Community College.
More than 140 people attended the opening of the show last week, and the exhibits will remain on display through April 15. While the children’s work is on display, entrance to the Coos Art Museum is free for everyone.
Leah Ruby, who took over as executive director of the museum in January, was ecstatic as she looked through the art made by the young artists.
“It’s one of the best shows we do,” Ruby said. “All the teachers get to be involved with the museum and the students get to see their work in a professional setting.”
As she walked through the exhibit, Ruby stopped time after time to admire the work.
“Oh that’s great,” she said to one painting. “I absolutely love these,” she said, pointing to snowmen made by pre-K students.
“This is a show you can come see several times,” Ruby said. “There’s technical skills in here that are amazing.”
At the VISIONS competition, high school students from many schools displayed their artwork. Judges Pat Snyder and James Fritz looked over the art before picking first through fourth-place winners in each grade and three Best of Show winners overall.
The three Best of Show winners not only get bragging rights, but they receive tuition waivers to SWOCC thanks to the SWOCC Foundation.
“The VISION show is a must-see,” said foundation Executive Director Elise Hammer. “It is the one venue where we can gain insight into the thoughts, struggles and aspirations of our current diverse generation of high school-age students. Guaranteed, you’ll walk away from the VISION show completely inspired.”
The judges were uniquely qualified to judge the student competition. Snyder in a printmaker, artist and taught art for 30 years at Marshfield High School while Fritz runs the art department at SWOCC.
“The VISION show is a great opportunity for me to interact with all the high school art teachers and meet their creative students,” Fritz said. “Their positive energy puts a smile on my face. It’s my mission to help our art students chart a course for success in college and beyond. The partnership of Coos Art Museum and the college is unique in promoting the arts for students and the community. It gives high school students and their families a connection to the museum and the greater world of the visual arts. It demonstrates the value that we place on the arts as part of a strong and vital community.”
As she looked over the exhibit again this week, Ruby said she was deeply impressed, even by much of the art that did not receive a prize.
“Art is something that’s supposed to speak to you,” Ruby said. “That’s something I want the kids to remember. If they didn’t win a prize, it doesn’t mean they aren’t great artists and hard-working artists.”
The VISION competition is held yearly while the Student Biennial Show takes place every other year. Ruby said she expects to see many of the students with their work on display in the coming years.
“If they keep doing the work, they will be in art classes wth their teachers and their teachers will suggest they enter,” she said.
The Coos Art Museum is open from 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Friday an 1 to 4 pm Saturdays. During the student exhibits, the entry fee is waived.