Plans to show off art

Esther Noe
According to Hill City School District art teacher Jessica Kautz, when there is a sports event, community members turn out in droves to support it. Consequently, students see sports as something that has value. However, students often feel that their art cannot bring the same value. 
As a result, Kautz has searched for ways to display student art.
“I’ve wanted to do an art show for a while, and to find the space is kind of hard,” she said. 
She displayed art in trophy cases, but it was a tight fit. What she really wanted were standing panels to display art on. Unfortunately  they were expensive and never fit easily into the budget. 
When Tamela Ross sent her the link to the Hill City Area Community Foundation’s grant application, Kautz thought, “Oh, I have the perfect project for this.” 
She calculated the cost of the panels, filled out the application and sent it in. Then, on Feb. 24, the Hill City Area Community Foundation announced that the Hill City School District Arts Department would receive a grant, which was enough to purchase 20 panels. 
“I was super excited,” said Kautz. “Especially since we haven’t had a good place to show stuff off.”
When set up side by side, these tall, square panels act like portable double-sided walls. They can also stand on their own for a four-sided display. You can decorate them with fabric or hang artwork directly on them. 
“Each panel is 45 inches wide so we’re going to have a lot of space to display stuff,” said Kautz.
Although the panels cannot be up long term they can be used to display art made in class or at home in the high school and middle school for special events like parent teacher conferences.
“That way at least twice a year they can show off their stuff,” said Kautz. “School-wide, K through 12, I think we need to celebrate the arts a little bit more.” 
Kautz said there are many students not in sports who do not have a way to celebrate what they do. They may not even have high marks, but they have a hidden talent for art that needs to be encouraged. 
“If you look through their notebooks, those kids are always drawing. They’re doodling in the margins. They kind of hide the fact that their artists so I want them to be able to show off,” said Kautz. 
Some students do not think anyone would want to see their work, or it does not feel special because they have stacks of drawings at home. However, Kautz hopes that once students realize they can display their work more often, it will inspire them to go further and do more.
“People want to see it. There’s a reason that people buy art and put it in their homes,” said Kautz.
In the future, Kautz would like to do more events that show off the students’ artwork. One idea is to have an art night so students can see that community members will come out just to see their art. 
“Hill City is an art community, and I think we’ll get people to come,” said Kautz. 
Kautz also would like to partner with the science departments for a STEAM night to show some of the things students are doing and what types of machines they are using. 
Another thing Kautz would like to explore is a rock painting project for elementary school students.
Rapid City has a program called Rapid City Rocks where people can find rocks hidden all over town. When people find them, they either keep them or re-hide them after taking a picture and posting in on the Facebook page so the painters can track where their rock goes. 
Kautz would like to do something similar by having every student in the elementary school paint a rock. Then the rocks could be placed in a planter outside the elementary school where tourists could take a rock, bring it home or leave it somewhere. They would also be instructed to snap a picture of the rock’s new home and post it on a special Facebook page. 
Once photos are posted, Kautz would like to get a map of the United States and pin up the photos so students can see all the places their rocks go. 
Meanwhile, Kautz is pursuing certification to teach high school classes in professional-level graphic design and photography. Students who completed these classes would then graduate with a certification of their own. 
“They really want kids to start looking at the fact that there’s a lot of careers out there that you don’t necessarily need four years for,” said Kautz. 
The program is also geared toward putting students in an environment they could potentially work in one day by working with local businesses. This reveals the practical application of what students are learning in class and would provide an art career pathway. 
Kautz is hopeful that these classes will be in place by next year. 
“I am super grateful for all of the support the community has shown the art program,” said Kautz. “As an art teacher in a small district I am incredibly blessed to have so much support from our community. People have donated art supplies, funds, equipment and helped to fund donors choose projects. It has made a big impact in my classroom.”

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