Jefferson County Schools has produced some exceptionally talented students in its time, and that is thanks not only to the students’ own creativity, but dedicated artists who have dedicated their time teaching the next generation.
The three spring exhibits at the Arvada Center honor the work done by both students and teachers, while showcasing what the artists of tomorrow are working on.
The 43rd Annual Jeffco Schools Foundation High School Art Exhibition, Erick C. Johnson: Pay Attention — Jeffco Teacher Solo Exhibition and Wes Magyar: Means to an End — Jeffco Alumni Exhibition will all be on display at the center’s three galleries through May 11.
The galleries, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.
“These are three totally different shows,” curator at the center Collin Parson said. “This is the second year we’re doing the alumni show, but with exhibits from Erick and Wes, I think it really shows how important the arts education is, and how it fosters artists.”
For the Jeffco Schools Foundation show, which is on display in the Main Gallery, Parson estimated there are around 500 pieces on display from 23 different high school, all selected by art teachers and then juried by guest jurors.
The mediums on display include ceramics, sculpture, crafts and fibers, drawing, painting, black and white photography, digital photography, computer generated, jewelry, non-wearable jewelry, and printmaking.
“The Jeffco Schools exhibit was my first juried show, and I remember that it felt like a really big deal,” Magyar said. “Especially since it was juried, you didn’t know if you were going to get it or not, so it felt like a real show.”
Magyar began his artistic career at the Arvada Center’s Jefferson County High School Art Exhibition in 1993.
In the Jeffco Alumni Exhibition, which is on display in the Theater Gallery, Magyar has the chance in his solo show to expand on ideas that has been on display in other shows at the center.
“All the pieces on display here are part of a larger narrative about making a living in society and what we need to survive versus what we do to survive,” he explained. “A lot of these images can be either funny or disturbing.”
Magyar’s high school art teacher, Erick C. Johnson, is examined in the Jeffco Teacher Solo Exhibition in the Upper Gallery.
Johnson’s work consists of sculptures and wall constructions — he is perhaps best known for the Bottom of the Ninth the neon public art piece on the side of Coors Field.
Johnson said he became interested in how things work from his father, who when something broke down, would take it apart to fix it.
“There’s constant experimentation and something kinetic about these things,” he said. “It’s a bit like puzzle making.”
Both Johnson and Magyar spoke about the importance of art education remaining a focus in schools, despite the pressure downgrade arts for other topics.
“People kind of see art education as a luxury item, but the goal is to teach creativity and innovation,” Magyar said. “Critical thinking is one of the most important things I learned from art school.”
Seeing the work of students and Magyar brought up a lot of memories for Johnson — something art teachers all over the county can relate to.
“The kids are really dynamic and willing to try a lot of different things,” he said. “I had some incredible times with these students.”
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