The Coos Art Museum has been taken over by student art from southern Oregon.
The entire ground floor is filled with the Student Biennial exhibit, which features paintings, sculptures, and more by K-12 students. The majority of works are from Coos County students, but works by young artists from Douglas, Curry and other counties are also on display.
Upstairs, the two exhibit halls host the annual VISION Art Competition, a project co-sponsored by Southwestern Oregon Community College. The art for the competition comes from high school students, with the top three artists chosen by the judges receiving scholarships to Southwestern Oregon Community College.
More than 140 people attended the opening of the exhibition last week, and the exhibits will remain on display until April 15. While children’s work is on display, admission to the Coos Art Museum is free for everyone.
Leah Ruby, who took over as executive director of the museum in January, was thrilled as she looked through the art made by the young artists.
“It’s one of the best shows we’ve done,” Ruby said. “All teachers are involved in the museum and students can see their work in a professional setting.”
While walking through the exhibition, Ruby stopped many times to admire the work.
“Oh, that’s great,” she said to a chalkboard. “I love it,” she said, pointing to snowmen made by kindergartners.
“It’s a show you can come and see multiple times,” Ruby said. “There are technical skills here that are amazing.”
During the VISIONS competition, secondary school students from many schools presented their works. Judges Pat Snyder and James Fritz reviewed the art before choosing first through fourth place winners in each category and three Best of Show winners overall.
The three Best of Show winners not only get bragging rights, but they receive SWOCC tuition waivers thanks to the SWOCC Foundation.
“The VISION show is a must,” said the foundation’s chief executive, Elise Hammer. “It’s the only place where we can get a glimpse into the thoughts, struggles and aspirations of our current diverse generation of high school students. Guaranteed, you’ll walk away from the VISION show completely inspired.
The judges were uniquely qualified to judge the student competition. Snyder is a printmaker, artist, and taught art for 30 years at Marshfield High School while Fritz heads the art department at SWOCC.
“The VISION show is a great opportunity for me to interact with all the high school art teachers and meet their creative students,” Fritz said. “Their positive energy makes me smile. My mission is to help our art students chart a course for success in college and beyond. The partnership between the Coos Art Museum and the college is unique in promoting the arts with students and the community. It connects high school students and their families with the museum and the wider world of visual arts. This demonstrates the value we place on the arts as part of a strong and vibrant community. .
As she wandered through the exhibit again this week, Ruby said she was deeply impressed, even by much of the art that did not receive awards.
“Art is something that’s meant to speak to you,” Ruby said. “It’s something I want kids to remember. If they haven’t won any awards, that doesn’t mean they aren’t great artists and hard-working artists.”
The VISION competition takes place every year while the student biennial takes place every two years. Ruby said she expects to see many students with their work exhibited in the years to come.
“If they keep doing the work, they’ll be in art classes with their teachers and their teachers will offer them in,” she said.
The Coos Art Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. During student exhibitions, the entrance fee is waived.