Middle school students have artwork exhibited

In the otherwise dim halls of the Grinnell Community Center, middle school art pieces lit up the second floor during its opening reception on March 12. Filling the room were penguins, rectangles and flowers—all of which invited student artists, family members and passersby in to view the exhibition.

The art exhibition, featuring around 200 art projects, was a culmination of the year’s dedication by Grinnell Middle School art students. The types of artwork varied greatly in form, from original still life drawings to posters mimicking graphic artist M.C. Escher’s style.

All projects were created under the guidance of Andrew Lehn, the art teacher at Grinnell Middle School. Lehn explained that he considers his middle school art classes as a transitional stage, where students fine-tune their existing skills and prepare for more advanced artwork.

“We try to have stepping stones from elementary where they’re not quite maybe as skilled to high school where they’re going to start adding what the meaning of some of that stuff is,” Lehn said. “There’s a boundary but then there’s a lot of choice within the boundary that allows kids to be creative and do something that they like to do.”

The art exhibition was a way to celebrate the students’ creativity and hard work. Lehn explained that a student’s artwork had to receive a 95 percent grade or higher in order to be displayed in the exhibition, though there were some exceptions.

The event was the final show at the Grinnell Community Center as the art gallery will be relocating to what was previously the Stewart Library. The Stewart building is currently being repaired in preparation for its first art show in the renovated space, which will take place in July.

Judy Arendt, the Arts Director with Grinnell Area Arts Council, noted that the Grinnell School District has a thriving arts program in the midst of schools reducing arts programs due to budget cuts.

“Unfortunately when the school district cuts, [the arts] the first thing that seems to go. You’re seeing it all over the state,” Arendt said.

According to Arendt, Grinnell School District has not been exempt from the trend.

“It’s not targeted toward the visual arts as much as it is toward instrumental arts this year,” Arendt said. “A part of it was by attrition, we had a gentlemen that retired and [the school district] chose not to replace him.”

Arendt believes that the arts in schools play an important role in education and encouraged the community to continue its support for arts programs in the Grinnell School District.

“What the arts do is it allows the children to think creatively,” Arendt said. “It allows them to grow and present their own ideas and become who they are through that. It cuts down on truancy, it cuts down on absenteeism [and] it plugs in the at-risk students. These are things that our school district knows.”