LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Families of Lakewood Ranch High School art students packed Town Hall to see the talent Wednesday within the school's rapidly growing art department.
Art teacher Terry Thompson was busy marking artwork and organizing displays before the official exhibit opening. She said interest in art at the school more than quadrupled last year.
"Last year, we had 90 students enrolled in art classes," Thomspon said. "This year we have 390."
Sophomore Cole Kasten is taking art this year for the first time.
"I always liked to draw," he said as grandparents, Curt and Sara Kasten, looked at his pencil drawing of two wrestlers locked in competition.
A wrestler himself, he said he was inspired by artwork on the jackets of his teammates.
"A lot of my friends are in the class, too," he said.
"I'm impressed with the quality of the work here," his grandfather said. "These aren't slouches here."
Senior Brittney Pearman has been an artist "since I was able to hold a pen." Her artwork as part of a senior showcase was not for sale to the dismay of some patrons.
Colorful acrylic paintings are not her best work, she said. Her favorite medium is graphite.
"That's what I'm best in," she said.
Pearman said she thought increased interest in Lakewood Ranch High art was due to the addition of ceramics classes.
"A lot of my friends who weren't really that interested in art tried it and really loved it," she said.
Toward the end of the evening, Kerry Cameron walked out with a ceramic fish made by her son, Cameron. The freshman said he didn't know why he decided to take art this year.
"You've always liked to draw," his mother reminded him. "We have quite a collection (of art) at home."
The exhibit was sponsored by the Lakewood Ranch Creative Arts Club, according to Eva Rey, executive director of the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority. Money raised by artwork sales benefits the school art department.
Jim DeLa, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JimDeLaBH.