DENHAM SPRINGS — An exhibit featuring paintings by the 2017 Artist of the Year and creations by school-age children is on display at the Arts Council of Livingston Parish’s gallery on Hummel Street.

Liz Harman, the council’s Artist of the Year, is showing her acrylic-on-canvas creations in the lobby of the gallery. Art created by gifted and talented students from Albany and Holden schools is on display in the main gallery.

The artists will be honored at a reception Saturday, March 10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Their creations will be on display throughout March.

Harman said she seeks to reflect her home state of Louisiana in her paintings and has been involved in art since the fourth grade when she was inspired by a teacher.

Since graduating from Northwestern State University in 1998, she has worked as a graphic artist for a newspaper and a New Orleans magazine.

Now the mother of two, she is concentrating on her paintings and on teaching children and adult art classes. “I am now a ‘full time’ artist and I do art commissions, portraits, and paint the things that I want to paint. It’s been a journey since I first realized that art was going help define my life, but I am now content with where I am, and I am enjoying my art more than ever,” she said.

Harman, a product of the Live Oak School system, said that in high school she concentrated on portraits and paintings that carefully reflected reality. She added that in college she was challenged to go beyond reproducing an image and to venture into the abstract. “I went from realism to abstract, and sometimes it was painful. But I learned from it, and now I work in some of both in my paintings,” she said.

One of Harman’s works is a self-portrait with her two children, Grayson and Reese. She said the two had cuddled with her in bed after a long day, and a photo was taken of the three. She then painted the picture of from the photograph. Some of her other works on display depict Louisiana food, a sea scene, running horses and a partial abstract of a country church.

Harman said some pictures tend to “paint themselves” and can be finished in about eight to 10 hours. Other works, such as portraits, can take 20 to 40 hours to complete. She added that sometimes she starts on a painting, leaves it and eventually finishes it weeks or even months later.

She said that she was honored to have been chosen as Artist of the Year by the Arts Council, a group she has been involved with over the past several years.

Works from another group of artists, all a generation behind Harman, fill the main hall at the gallery. Cindy Perilloux, who teaches the gifted and talented students in the arts at schools in the Albany-Holden area, brought 42 pieces created by budding artists as young as second-graders and as mature as high school seniors. The student offerings run the gamut from simple collagelike pieces to paintings, photographs and sculpture. Of the latter, one student created a large "tree” out of recycled plastic water bottles.

Perilloux said the young artists were chosen for participation in art classes by demonstrating that they were gifted and talented in the visual arts. The art classes are part of the curriculum offered through the Livingston Parish School System. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is sponsoring the exhibit, so students had to create art based on subjects reflecting Louisiana’s environment. The aim of the art project was environmental education.

“Once the students were instructed that their work had to reflect environmental education, I let them create whatever it was that they wanted to do. All 35 students in the program were invited to submit one or more pieces of art, and they all came up with some imaginative creations,” she said.

Perilloux said the students were studious in their pursuits and that they gathered information from their teachers, libraries and the internet for ideas. In addition to creating the art, the students had to write an article accompanying their works. The finished products reflect such themes as coastal erosion, climate change, pollution and outdoor themes that recall the state’s rich bounty of wildlife and unique habitats.

“The students enjoy pursuing different forms of art. Some are into photography. Most really like to paint, but others choose to create sculpture. The very young students worked with simple themes, such as depicting changing leaves. All of them showed creativity and through their work they are gaining an appreciation for the process of creating art and learning more about the role that art plays in our society.”

Perilloux said her students used the internet and electronic media to get ideas but added, ‘They don’t mind putting their telephones down to pursue their art.”

Perilloux, who has been teaching art for 14 years, said some students will eventually go on to study art in college and may pursue a career as a professional artist. Others, she said, may decide that art is a great hobby and continue to be creative throughout their lives.

Mary Felder, president of the Arts Council of Livingston Parish, said of the student's efforts: “I just love the work that the students have accomplished. The arts program in the schools bodes well for the future of the arts in Livingston Parish. These are our future artists who will be making contributions to the fine arts effort in our parish. I am impressed with what they have accomplished, and I think those who visit the exhibit will be equally impressed."

The gallery is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. until noon and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.