Child’s play

MARQUETTE – Starting this week, the DeVos Art Museum will be covered ceiling to floor with colorful works of art created by children from around Marquette County.

The Annual Marquette County Children’s Art Exhibition begins Monday at the DeVos Art Museum on the campus of Northern Michigan University. Anywhere from 800 to over 1,000 students around the county participate each year, said Melissa Matuscak, DeVos Art Museum director and curator. The artwork for the show is selected by the teachers of the local schools.

“Every type of media is usually represented. The teachers do a wonderful job exploring all kinds of media, technique and concept – everything from Monet flower paintings to designing imaginary cities,” she said. “There are a lot of sculptural pieces displayed as well – great ceramic pieces, hanging sculptures, woodworking and fabric weavings.”

Grades kindergarten through 12th are represented at the the exhibition, which takes up the entire front gallery. Matuscak said she loves that the exhibit is colorful and experimental.

“The trees aren’t always green and brown and that’s completely fine,” she said. “It’s refreshing to see the world through the eyes of a young person.

“It’s also great for us ‘boring’ adults to think of the world in a non-representational, imperfect way. In some ways this show has some of the most inspiring and unique artwork of any show we have on display all year.”

Every year before the exhibit ends the museum holds a reception giving the chance for the students who made the art to show it off and answer questions people may have. Matuscak said the reception is packed with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even neighbors who are supportive of the kids in the show.

“The community appreciates the opportunity to see this kind of artwork in a big space, and the museum is considered a ‘professional’ space, so it’s great for the kids to get this kind of public recognition for their creative work,” she said. “I’ve had people compare the exhibition and reception to an awards banquet for sports. With sports you have games and award banquets that are public and they are a way for kids to share their talents with the community. I see this exhibition as a way for kids to share their artistic talent and be publicly recognized for that talent.”

Each April the museum sends letters to the local schools offering free tours of the show and reimburses for the busing thanks to the museum’s membership program, the Friends of the DeVos, Matuscak said. The teachers can call in advance and schedule tours during the last two weeks that the exhibition is on display.

“I have an amazing group of volunteer tour guides who help show the kids around the gallery to find their artwork. It’s like a scavenger hunt,” she said. “When they find their piece on the wall or on a pedestal, their face lights up and they smile and then show all of their friends.”

The Annual Marquette County Children’s Art Exhibition is on display Monday through May 25. The reception is scheduled for May 16 from 6-8 p.m. at the DeVos Art Museum. For more information contact the museum at 227-2235.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.