School may be over for the summer, but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy the artwork of Newport Middle School youngsters.
The work of Chelsea Odden’s art students in grades six, seven and eight is currently on display at the newly built C.O.V.E. in the entry area of the Newport News-Times, and will be open for viewing Mondays through Fridays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. now through July.
News-Times publisher Jeremy Burke contacted Kristin Bigler, communications specialist for the Lincoln County School District, to determine interest in a student art show that would be open to the public. Bigler put the word out to school district art teachers, and Odden, who teaches art at Newport Middle School (NMS), jumped on board.
“I’ve been wanting to have a public space to showcase the artwork my students created during this weird year,” Odden said, noting she taught art online, as well as in person and created art kits for students during the pandemic. “They would get on a Zoom call with me and pick up the art kit supplies and take them home to create art. And for the first couple of weeks, the seventh grade students did digital art while I got the kit supplies ready.”
She explained that the digital work involved selecting words to illustrate poetry, and then incorporating images.
The newspaper’s display features the work of seventh graders in distance learning with a few digital art pieces, along with physical artwork created by sixth and eighth graders in the classroom. Elements of art such as line, color, shape, value and texture are illustrated in the work, in addition to principles of design such as balance, movement, proportion and unity.
Odden said the pandemic led to different ways of teaching, with some grades taught in person, others taught online, and still others in a hybrid program, both online and in school. Odden noted that art is an elective class for seventh and eighth graders, but almost all sixth graders take the class.
“I had to create a new curriculum and had to mine the resources available,” Odden said of teaching during the COVID pandemic. “I’ve taught high school art for 13 years, and that helped. And I look forward to having the sixth graders full time next year.”
Odden is in her first year at NMS and previously taught in Fargo, N.D., ending the 2019-20 school year doing online classroom teaching. That gave her a bit of a head start when she arrived at Newport Middle School, she said.
Of the work in the public show, Odden said, “I think it’s excellent. The students are proud of the work they’ve done. Hopefully art was a positive experience during the pandemic and the class was maybe a way to lighten up the day. This was a unique year to be an art student, but the Newport Middle School students stepped up and worked with their creative minds all the same!”
Odden noted that one sixth grader summed up the experience by saying, “Art has been really fun this year.”
Odden selected about 45 pieces of art for display at the newspaper exhibit, and said she tried to represent each grade level. “I chose the work of students who showed creativity, rigor, inventiveness and skill development,” she said. The featured art, all two-dimensional, includes drawings, oil, pastel, watercolor and digitally created pieces.
If another exhibit is offered in the future, she would like to use pedestals so she can display sculpture. And she hopes someday to be able to show a larger selection of her students’ artwork at the Newport Visual Arts Center.
Odden said she always has student art on display in the halls of Newport Middle School, but the newspaper office exhibit is special because it’s part of the community. She noted that Burke helped to hang the show in what she described as “an aesthetically pleasing space, a very nice little gallery.”
And she added that the students are proud to have their work on display, with several having gone with family members to see it.
“Our school principal, Aaron Belloni, supported the idea,” she said, noting he ordered extra supplies for art kits for the seventh graders to use during distance learning in Fall 2020.
Burke came up with the idea of having the newspaper office host the gallery and youth art show. He has remodeled the entry area of the newspaper office into the C.O.V.E. — Central Oregon Coast Visitors Experience; the space is almost complete.
“After we built the C.O.V.E., we struggled about what to do with the west wall, and came up with the idea of doing a community art display,” Burke said. “As a parent, I knew I would love to have a space for kids to show their art, and this is it. This is designed for up-and-coming artists to have a space to show what they’re doing.”
He said the west wall of the new space will be devoted to student art, with Taft High School students’ art already being worked into the schedule.
“It takes educational leaders to support arts education and community leaders to celebrate the arts achievements such as this exhibit at the News-Times,” Odden concluded. “I hope that members of the Newport community go to see the show.”
The exhibit can be seen at the News-Times office, 831 NE Avery St., Newport.