For the first time, some Kansas schools weren't able to pay the entry fees of students who submitted works for the 2010 Scholastic Art Exhibition.
Chalk it up to the poor economy and state budget cuts.
But organizers of the exhibition were heartened to see that the money woes didn't reduce the number of student entries in the competition. In fact, the field of 1,557 submissions represents one of the largest ever. From it, 313 works were chosen to be on display and 176 of those received awards.
On Sunday, those winners will be honored at a ceremony and reception at the Wichita Center for the Arts, where the student exhibition will be on display through Feb. 21.
"This show is always such an important reminder to how important the arts are to children of this age and to their education as a whole," said Jana Erwin Durfee, the center's gallery director.
Parents, teachers and others stepped up to pay entry fees that schools couldn't pay, a testimony to how much they value the nurturing of student creativity, said Suzanna Mathews, the center's public relations director.
"These students have made such an investment in creating their art and they deserve an audience," she said. "It is a reflection of the time and talent of not just the students, but the instructors as well."
The Scholastic Art Exhibition, which began in 1923, showcases the work of seventh- through 12th-graders from 70 Kansas counties. Many of the students receive gold key and silver key honors, and five are recognized as American Vision Award recipients.
Those five go to the national show in New York, where an American Vision Award is given to each region. The winner from each region will receive a college scholarship.
This year, the Kansas exhibition was judged by seven local artists and educators. They gave awards to works that showed originality, technical skill and self-expression. Scholarship money and cash awards are given every year; last year, $247,000 in scholarship money was awarded by Kansas colleges.
"Every year the quality of the artwork seems to be higher," said Amy Reep, the show's coordinator. "It is always so exciting to see the works of these young artists who are so talented."
Mathews said the range of media in this year's show includes painting and drawing, ceramics and glass, sculpture, digital media, photography and fiber.
"There seemed to be more fiber and textile entries this year," she said. "It is possible that reality television programs such as 'Project Runway' are having a direct influence on younger artists."
If you go
2010 scholastic art exhibition
What: Competitive art show representing work by middle and high school students from 70 Kansas counties
Where: Wichita Center for the Arts, 9112 E. Central
When: On display through Feb. 21. Awards ceremony and reception at 2 p.m. Sunday. Gallery hours 1-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
How much: Admission free.