She was just a little girl, and she was proud that a piece of art she created in school was hanging in an exhibit and ArtCenter Manatee. Hundreds of people were milling around the gallery, looking at her work and others.
She noticed that there was a red sticker, just a little red dot, pasted on the card hanging next to her artwork. The red dot looked a bit ominous. She thought she was in trouble for some reason.
So she was a bit trepidatious when she approached Carla Nierman, the executive director of ArtCenter Manatee. “What does that mean?” the little girl asked. “Did I do something wrong?”
“It means it sold,” Nierman told her. “Somebody bought your art!”
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For the rest of the evening, the little girl stood near her artwork smiling and pointing out the red sticker to everyone she could.
That little girl and her artwork are part of the Manatee County Schools Exhibit, which is on display at ArtCenter Manatee through June 24.
This is the third annual edition of the exhibit, and it includes 232 pieces of art — paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and a few pieces that defy easy categorization — created by students in Manatee County public and charter schools, from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade.
“It gets bigger every year,” Nierman said. “It’s about twice the size (this year) as it was the first year.”
Selling work isn’t really the point, Nierman said, and in the exhibit program, a lot of the pieces are marked “NFS,” meaning the artists don’t want to sell them. Others are priced, this year, from $10 to $400.
This is the third annual editon of the the exhibit, and it includes 232 pieces of art — paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and a a few pieces that defy easy categorization — created by students in Manatee County public and charter schools.
But the exhibit is a treat for art lovers. The work ranges from interesting, colorful work that’s obviously created by young children to professional-looking art that would look at home in a museum or a professional exhibit.
On a recent afternoon, Evelyn Borsheim and her granddaughter, Kiara Obanado, browsed the gallery. They were delighted and impressed by what they saw. When they were asked which one were their favorites, they had trouble deciding. There were the wind chimes made from painted prescription lenses, the stark portrait of a young man’s face, the large a beautiful photograph of a church window, and a couple of colorful abstractions.
Even just a few days into the exhibit, a lot of the art had been sold. Red stickers were everywhere. It’s not uncommon, Nierman said, for those “NFS” artists to change their minds once they see their friends selling their work and try to make some money from their work.
More important than selling the work, Nierman said, is that the young artists learn how to present their work in a gallery setting. They attend the opening reception and talk about their work with gallery guests. If they want to sell, they have to figure out the best price, taking the gallery commission into account.
“It becomes a word problem for them,” Nierman said. “They have to figure out, ‘If I want to get this amount, what price to I have to charge?’”
(ArtCenter Manatee charges a significantly smaller percentage than the standard gallery commission for works in the student show.)
The works come from more than 20 county elementary, middle and high schools. Each school’s visual teacher selects a maximum of 10 pieces from his or her students. Some students have more than one piece of art that made it into the show. Before the exhibit is hung on the walls, an art expert judges the works, and awards ribbons in four age groups: Kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade and ninth through 12th grade.
Even the whimsical art of the youngest students is attractive and creative. Nierman points out pieces that would look great hanging in doctors’ offices, shops or living rooms. Some of the three-dimensional art would look great on someone’s desk, and would spark conversation among co-workers or clients.
In other words, the artists may be students, but what they have created is real art.
“In fact,” she said, “last year I bought three pieces myself.”
If you go
What: Manatee County Schools Exhibit
Where: ArtCenter Manatee, 209 Ninth St. W., Bradenton
When: Through June 24
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday-Thursday
Information: 941-746-2862, artcentermanatee.org