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Art Stars of Tomorrow

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Georgia youths are showing off their artistic talents to millions, at the world's busiest airport.

The Airport Art Program, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, has three Youth Art Galleries, in which students –– from kindergarten to twelfth grade –– are able to express their talent and showcase their skills, according Airport Art Program officials.

"The airport provides its three Youth Art Galleries as a customer service to our passengers," said Katherine Marbury, manager of the Airport Art Program. "We feel the children's artwork enlivens the space and brings a happy, playful moment to the, sometimes, stressful experience of travel."

The galleries are located on concourses D, E, and T, and offer students an opportunity to exhibit their artwork professionally, to a diverse airport audience, added officials. New art pieces are displayed every three months.

Passenger Abbey Freel, of Anchorage, Alaska, said she is glad the airport is providing creative youths with an opportunity to show off their art.

The 16-year-old called the program a prestigious opportunity for young people, because they are displaying their creations at an airport that receives an enormous amount of passenger traffic. "I've won art competitions, so I know how it feels to have your artwork exhibited," said Freel.

"I think that it is awesome, great exposure to bring their art out to the masses," added Clay Newlin, of Boston, Mass., as he studied a piece of artwork. "I think it's really cool."

Officials said the first Youth Art Gallery became available, on Concourse T, in the summer of 1997. Another gallery opened the following year, on Concourse E, they said.

There are 70 pieces of artwork on Concourse E, which is hung vertically, said Lyn Eldredge, co-chair of the Georgia Art Education Association. There are 40 pieces hung horizontally, on Concourse T, she added. Both galleries are coordinated by the Airport Art Program, in partnership with the Georgia Art Education Association, officials said.

The association is committed to improving art education across the state, explained officials. It provides workshops and exhibition opportunities for Georgia art students, and it holds a couple of annual conferences for arts educators.

The association collaborates with citizen groups and government agencies to support, and secure funding for, the visual and performing arts, in schools.

"Display of student work at the airport is a great opportunity for success," said Eldredge, of the Georgia Art Education Association. "It brings relevance and importance to the students to have their work on view where millions of people may see the work everyday. It builds self-confidence and self-esteem, and promotes the encouragement to continue to build on their creativity in the future."

Eldredge said she has been collaborating with the airport's Youth Art Galleries for approximately 10 years. According to Eldredge, her role is to recruit art educators, to display their students' work at the galleries. "Students from all over the state can participate, as long as their teacher or organization has [a] GAEA [Georgia Art Education Association] membership," she said.

Eldredge said the association advertises Youth Art Galleries opportunities through newsletters, Georgia's school systems, conferences the association holds and their web site, www.gaea.armstrong.edu.

Travelers, she said, have contacted the association to purchase students' artwork. "We do not display the artwork for the sole purpose of selling student artwork, but, quite often, there have been very interested travelers who have a real interest in purchasing, if the student is willing to sell their work," explained Eldredge.

She said that, over the years, students from Clayton, Henry, Dekalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties have participated. In addition, students from other Georgia communities outside the metro area, including Jasper, Savannah and Valdosta, have also showcased their art at the galleries.

"For the more serious art student, who is interested in an art career, their work on display becomes an important stepping stone to their future successes," said Eldredge. "Students become involved in the process of displaying artwork, which will be an important experience in the future presentation of their work in the public. Students can include their display as an important accomplishment on their resume, for future reference in auditioning for art classes or jobs."

Airport officials said the Airport Art Program works with Youth Art Connection, a program of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, to display artwork for the third gallery, located on Concourse D.

Officials said Youth Art Connection utilizes art to connect with young people who are under-served, in order to address issues related to youth culture. Furthermore, Youth Art Connection collaborates with the community, to bring innovative and cultural enrichment programs to young people, according to airport officials.

Rebecca DesMarais, director of arts and cultural enrichment for the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, said Youth Art Connection has been collaborating with the airport for approximately six years. Currently, the Youth Art Gallery, on Concourse D, is displaying artwork from children of the Boys and Girls Club, through the International Paint Pals Program, of Youth Art Connection, said DesMarais.

"I think it gives the public a chance to see the ability of our young people," said DesMarais. "I think that it is great for the public and it [art] is usually in very bright colors, which is attractive to them."

DesMarais said the Youth Art Connection provides about 50 art pieces to the airport, from young artists. The artwork ranges from watercolors, to collages, to mix media pieces, to print paintings and drawings, to name a few, she said.

Art teachers of clubs belonging to Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, submit artwork from members, ages six to 18, she said. The work is then judged and selected for the gallery, she explained.

"We get lots of positive feedback about the program from passengers and employees who enjoy it," said Marbury, the airport art program manager. "We also use Youth Art Galleries as a way to bring young people into the airport, to learn about the rest of the wonderful art we have here. School tours are given throughout the year for many of the classes who show their work here."