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High school artists shine in annual exhibition





In her 27th year of teaching in Gove County schools, Ronna Schultz said one of the highlights of her year is bringing her students to the High School Art Exhibition in Hays, sponsored by Fort Hays State University's Creative Art Society.

Packing up works with lots of orange dots attached always is rewarding, she said, signifying a judge gave that particular art piece a nod of excellence.

But the best part is the opportunity to check out lots of other projects, said Schultz, who teaches art in grades kindergarten through 12 at Grinnell Middle School and at two locations in Grainfield -- Wheatland Elementary School and Wheatland-Grinnell High School.

"It's awesome for the kids to see other works," said Schultz, who has brought students every year to the exhibition, which this year was celebrating its 39th anniversary and featured more than 1,300 projects.

"I think it's excellent," Schultz said, "and I'm glad they keep having it."

If he has his way, the show will continue long into the future, said John Thorns, longtime Fort Hays art professor serves as a judge for the event since retiring in 1990.

One of Thorns' former students at FHSU, Diana Unrein from Hays, also was a judge for the 2013 exhibition Wednesday for the first time. Another former professor of Unrein's, Mick Jilg, had asked her earlier this year if she would consider judging.

"Usually I'm the one being judged, so it was different," said Unrein, who earned bachelor's and master's of fine arts degrees in painting and drawing from Fort Hays and still is involved in the arts. "I think it's great exposure for these kids, and it was a wonderful experience."

Unrein has come to Gross Memorial Coliseum for years to view the works, and some of her favorites, not surprisingly, were several ceramic pieces entered by her youngest daughter, Hays High School senior Victoria Unrein.

Because she was busy judging her own group of assigned entries, Unrein wasn't able to browse the tables around the indoor track at GMC. So she missed seeing one of the works with one of her favorite mediums -- Conte crayons.

Senior Nicole Rieth from Wheatland-Grinnell High School used Conte crayons -- compressed powdered graphite or charcoal sticks -- to draw a large picture of a friend's baby boy on a skateboard and titled it "Roll With It."

That drawing, as were all the projects from Wheatland-Grinnell High, were all originals, Schultz said.

"I won't let them copy something that's been published," she said. "If you see something cool in a magazine, then 50,000 other people have seen it, too."

Colleen Taylor, who has worked at Fort Hays since 1971 and is in charge of the exhibition, has attended every one of the exhibitions -- and never tires of them.

"There is so much talent in those young kids," said Taylor, who added she is pleased to see so many schools still participate in tough economic times.

Nearly 1,275 students from 66 schools throughout the state brought projects, ranging from sculptures and ceramics to pencil drawings and oil and acrylic paintings to graphics and glassworks.

"So there were a lot more entries than that," Taylor added, "because a lot of them bring more than one."

One of the favorite events of the day -- the outdoor sidewalk drawing competition -- had to be canceled because of wet weather conditions. Nonetheless, Taylor deemed the latest exhibition a success.

"They all seem to really enjoy it," she said of the students.

So, too, do those from the community who come to the coliseum to view the artwork.

"It's good to see a lot of people out viewing the exhibition," Thorns said.