“Oh my gosh, that is awesome,” Philipsburg high school student Haley Thompson said as she watched graduate assistant Brian Hutchinson pull a multi-layered print off the press.
Thompson is just one of the many students visiting the Fort Hays State University campus for a morning of creative activities and demonstrations at the annual High School Art Day.
“We have 71 schools this year and approximately 1,357 students attending,” art department secretary Coleen Taylor said.
Printmaking professor Gordon Sherman is the coordinator behind the High School Art Day, which was more humble in size when it first started.
It once took place over two days, but now it is a half-day event, making it easier and less expensive to attend.
Wednesday morning marked the 35th anniversary for High School Art Day. The floor of the Gross Coliseum was filled with booths displaying art in a variety of mediums from students across the state, some traveling up to four hours to arrive before the 10 a.m. registration deadline.
From 10-12 p.m., the artwork was judged by three emeritus professors: John Thorns, a former professor and chair of the art department; painter Kathleen Kuchar; and ceramicist Darrell McGinnis.
Each judge had an FHSU student to assist them.
Freshman Jeremy McGinnis assisted his grandfather Darrall McGinnis.
“My hometown comes to this event, so I have that connection,” junior Nick Roach said in regard to his involvement with assisting the judges.
Many students received certificates of merit after the three emeritus judges made the rounds, and both students and their art teachers benefitted from the exchange of ideas provided by the art competition.
Cimarron art teacher Steve Gieblar wore a tie on which he painted a Blue Jay feather, supporting his school mascot.
“I steal ideas for projects. I alter them to fit my students,” said Gieblar.
“We went and put up our artwork and looked at everyone else’s, which was really cool. I think it’s good for the students to go show their stuff off,” Wallace Country High School student Ellen Fixsen said.
After the judging was over, the students and teachers headed over to the FHSU art department to participate in and view a number of creative activities.
FHSU students assisted, demonstrated, and answered questions about their majors and types of projects they do.
“Just about every area has something for the students to come through and see,” Taylor said.
The most visible project was the sidewalk chalk drawing competition, which took place in front of Rarick. Sponsored by the FHSU Creative Arts Society, this competition encouraged participants to create original compositions, including four out of five of the following elements: a famous Kansas Landmark, a meat product, a squirrel, some form of alternative energy or an advertising mascot.
Ellen Fixsen was the mind behind “Introducing: The New Squirrel Steak” and “Kansas, The Heart of America,” two chalk drawings that involved a curious integration of the themes provided.
“He was genetically altered,” Fixsen said in relation to the large size of her squirrel steak. She plans to attend FHSU and major in graphic design this coming fall.
Another composition by a group from Marysville featured the Burger King Mascot, a black squirrel and an energy-efficient light bulb.
“Keep it beautiful, flowing waves of grain and blue skies,” Marysville student Heidi Eteamaki said in explanation for the efficient light bulb.
Martha Holmes, FHSU professor of art history judged the sidewalk chalk drawing competition.
Wilson High School placed first, and Hays High came in second.
Both groups received t-shirts, and first-place winners received the traveling trophy, which returns to the event each year as the first place award.
The art building was cramped as students attempted to make it to all available events.
“Everyone wants to sit in it. I have to guard it with a taser – just kidding,” senior Jim Hindman said. Fortunately, neither art nor visiting students suffered damages.
“It’s always a strong show here. My kids love it,” said Gieblar.
Graphic Design was a popular destination, and the computer lab was continually crammed with students’ watching video projects, while in the hall students explained programs like Rotoscope.
Seniors Abby Murray, Jered Sloan, and graduate student Lance Wadlow gave blacksmithing demonstrations in sculpture.
Students also helped run the large hot glue copula, or Glupola, creating rubber anvils with multi-colored sprinkles embedded in them.
In ceramics, students were able to sit in on visiting artist Malcolm Davis’ Shino Workshop.
“I gave gloss medium and paint marker demonstrations,” sophomore Bill Tuttle said.
FHSU graduate student Josh Knott assisted with a collaborative drawing project, and FHSU interior design projects were on display.
In addition, the Ellis County Historical Museum, the Hays Arts Council and the Sternberg Museum of Natural History opened their doors for the visiting students.
“It’s a good place for art educators to expand their awareness. Also it is an economic benefit to the town of Hays,” professor Micheal Jilg said.