For many Lafayette Parish students, there’s nothing quite as exciting as preparing for the day’s music lesson or gleefully anticipating pulling out their paintbrushes for art class.
Hundreds of those students got the opportunity to share their excitement, and to showcase their talents, during a daylong event Saturday that featured 19 visual arts exhibits and performance venues.
About 4,000 visitors enjoyed musical performances from school bands, like Acadiana High School’s jazz band, and perused through Acadiana Center for the Arts’ galleries filled with watercolor landscapes, charcoal portraits and handmade cultural masks.
Bree Sargent, AcA’s education director, said teaching the arts helps students become creative thinkers, problem-solvers, collaborators and all around good citizens.
“The arts are really important to teach for art’s sake,” she said, “but it’s a great teaching tool, too. It’s engaging and keeps kids interested.”
What began seven years ago as former Superintendent Burnell Lemoine’s vision to publicly showcase the creative works that students complete in the classroom has now turned into an event that features artwork from more than 20 schools in the parish.
Opening ceremonies began at noon with a performance by Prairie Elementary, which was then followed by the Lafayette High School String Ensemble.
Businesses all over downtown participated in the Student Art Expo, clearing wall space to turn restaurants and hair salons into temporary art galleries.
Pam Lane, a Carencro High School art teacher, said exhibiting students’ works is a great experience for them.
“I always encourage them to see art in a gallery setting because they have no clue what it’s like to see pieces on a wall like this,” Lane said. “We have a lot of good talent, so sometimes it’s kind of hard to pick the best ones that represent just a little bit of what we do.”
Theresa Wasiloski, AcA’s artist-in-residence, presented the crowd with 10-minute excerpts from her newest movement project called “PLAY,” which Sargent said was inspired by Wasiloski’s experience teaching children.
J.J. Wilson, of Freetown Studios gave the crowd an insight into his creative process with a live painting demonstration.
In an installment called the “Word Wall,” Sargent and other members of the art community asked students why they make art. Sargent found the answers she received inspiring.
The students’ responses, along with painted self-portraits, covered an entire section in the museum’s second-floor gallery.
One 15-year-old wrote, “I make art because it represents me as an individual.”
A second-grader at Live Oak Elementary answered, “I make art because I am an artist.”
Second-grade students at Prairie and Milton Elementary schools used oil pastels and watercolors to understand the concept of creating 3-D space on a two-dimensional surface.
After studying the history of posters, Lafayette High art students designed posters using both screen and block printing that referenced issues such as pay discrimination and the nation’s incarceration rate.
In another art installment, Helena Lecocq, an 11th-grader at Lafayette High, designed one of the six chosen art pieces that were painted on the benches surrounding the fountain in Parc Sans Souci.
“I just enjoy (making art) a lot,” said Lecocq, whose design featured geometric shapes in shades of purple and blue. “I think the geometric style is the most interesting because it’s very diverse and colorful.”
Partnered with the Lafayette Parish School Board and Cox Communications, the AcA has been able to grow the event, adding a block party that involves music, sidewalk chalk and crafts.
“It is so amazing to watch these kids’ faces light up when they see their art,” Sargent said. “This is the Acadiana Center for the Arts, and your art is hanging on the walls. There are professional artists who want to have their work here who have never be able to show it, and there’s kindergarten students with their projects displayed.”