Kalamazoo students artwork on display in annual exhibit at the KIA

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. — There’s a new artist in town. In fact, there’s about 1,000 of them. And they’re showcasing their latest, and greatest, artwork in Downtown Kalamazoo.

“Once a year the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts really celebrates the importance of education in our schools and the talent and creativity of young artists between kindergarten and 8th grade,” said Susan Eckhardt, the museum’s director of education. “Between now and June 5th this great exhibition will be on view here.”

Saturday was the grand opening and over 2,400 people came that day including some of the artists themselves. Eckhardt said the museum anticipates about 5,000 people to come before they take down the exhibit. The response from the community so far has been full of excitement and admiration for the kids creativity.

“You’ll see things that personally represent kids ideas and emotions, things that explore famous artists and art history,” said Eckhardt of the hundreds of paintings and drawings that hang on the walls. “Things that focus on technique and media. It runs the gamut.”

Eckhardt said the KIA has been doing this exhibit since the 1970s. In the fall of 2015, they reached out to each of the 60 schools in Kalamazoo County that has an arts program and requested the teachers submit artwork that best represents their school. This year, thousands of pieces of art are currently on display.

“I think it’s important to showcase for the community at large just how vibrant and exciting the arts education programs in our schools are,” said Eckhardt. “Often the art goes up in a school or comes home to a refrigerator but this is a chance for us to put it out there for everyone in the community to see and enjoy it.”

Eckhardt explained that the exhibit is also a way to show patrons the importance of arts education in schools. Whenever a school faces budgets cuts, arts programs are the first to go. But she believes that art allows kids to develop in ways that subjects like math and science cannot.

“It’s a chance to work in an area where’s there's no “yes” or “no” answers,” said Eckhardt. “They have a problem to solve, usually when you’re creating a work of art, there’s many good solutions and it offers kids a chance to work on that creativity and problem-solving skills.”

Eckhardt said the exhibit was free for only the opening. There’s a small fee to pay when you get to the front door. And all of the money goes to the museum and arts education.

“How can you not love it?” said Eckhardt while smiling. “These are the artist of the future.”

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