Blazing Originality

Sparked by a volunteer in 1963, it is the longest-running celebration of high school art in our region.

The Evansville Museum of Arts, Science & History presents its 60th Annual High School Art Show from March 16 to April 16. It features student art from 19 high schools in Gibson, Pike, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties. Of 744 artworks submitted by 524 students this year, only about 125 will make it in.

This piece by Jyra Hendrix, a sophomore at William Henry Harrison Hight School, is called “Lost in Thought.”

“Celebrating regional artists is an important part of what we do, both through this show and our annual Mid-States Exhibition,” says Evansville Museum Executive Director Mary Bower.

The brainchild of Museum Guild member Shirley Wright, the show has touched thousands of young artists’ lives. Wright’s son Robert and his wife Marianna have sponsored the show since 2011 to honor her legacy.

Jon Siau was a North High School art teacher for 42 years. He has presented the Palmer and Lorene Siau Memorial Merit Award annually since 1992 in honor of his parents.

“We have dedicated art educators in our region, and we couldn’t put on this show without them,” Bower says. The teachers arrange and prepare submissions, fill out entry paperwork, and make sure the art gets to the museum and back.

“This happens outside their normal teaching duties to see that their students get this opportunity,” Bower said.

Former Castle High School art teacher Anne Dowhie says her goal was to show students “they could do something they didn’t think possible for them. Each student who gets in can be proud of accomplishing that.”

Mary Bower believes that participating in the show as students makes today’s art teachers more competitive.

“Parting the Seas” is a ceramics piece by Nola Oglesby, a junior at Castle High School in Newburgh, Indiana.

“When I was a Castle freshman, my graphite drawing won first place,” New Tech Institute art teacher and artist Brooke Wheeler said. “That gave me confidence. It motivated me to continue with art. I’m competitive. I want to get my students’ pieces in the show so their work is recognized.”

“We exhibit their work in the same galleries we use for master artists,” Evansville Museum Curator AJ Gianopoulos says. “Not in a hallway like other museums.”

This year’s show is in the Old Gallery that just held the “Active Stillness” exhibit.

“We’re showing pieces by students who have something special to say and worked hard to achieve it,” Gianopoulos says. “You really see the cream rise to the top.”

The quality of work across a range of media is remarkable.

Katie Waters, professor of art emerita at the University of Southern Indiana, is a good judge of that. She was the 2020 show juror and says, “I am awed by the creativity and skills of the young artists of southwestern Indiana.”

Peg Faimon, Dean of Indiana University’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, is this year’s juror. She sought works that blaze with originality.

“I look for art that surprises me,” she says. “That strikes me in a way I’m not expecting. Whether the subject or just the way colors come together.”

The opening reception and awards presentation takes place at 7 p.m. March 16. Students will receive $5,000 in cash prizes thanks to generous donors.

“Opening night is a highlight of our year,” Bower says.

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Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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