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May is Student Art Month at the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery.  All month, the entire gallery is devoted to display of artwork created by students from Virgin Valley Elementary, JL Bowler Elementary, Beaver Dam Elementary and Virgin Valley High School.

The Virgin Valley schools are fortunate to have art included in their curriculum, a circumstance that is not the case in many public schools across the nation.  Despite studies that show that students who study the arts are more likely to complete high school than those who do not, elective arts programs are often cut from the curriculum, and even at Virgin Valley High School students must pay special fees to enroll in art class, forensics (debate), choir, band, and many other essential subjects.  In Nevada, where the high school graduation rate is the lowest in the nation, the presence of art education in school is at least one beacon of hope, but the required fees for attendance sometime discourages students from enrolling.

To show support for student artists, Virgin Valley Artists Association invites each school in the valley to display classroom art at the gallery each May.  With that invitation goes a check for $150 to each school to pay for the mounting and hanging materials needed to show the student’s work in a professional manner.   The art teachers are responsible for providing the

art to the gallery and preparing wall labels to identify student work.  Kathleen Birkholz has been the VVAA organizer of the annual display since its inception, and this year VVAA member  Jake Noll mounted the art on foam core display boards.  The effect is a dazzling montage of beautiful shapes and colors, filling the gallery to capacity.

Kids in our local elementary schools also do clay art projects, making pinch pots and animal figures, all in brilliant glazes.  This year’s exhibition also features an incredibly diverse and ingenious collection of ceramic work created by students from Rancho High School in North Las Vegas.  The Rancho ceramics program, under the instruction of C.A. Traen, is one of the few ceramics programs in Nevada high schools.  Ms. Traen states that she has a number of students whose work equals that of professional potters and artists. She expects several of them to continue their ceramics studies at local colleges.

VVAA offers art scholarship opportunity to local high school seniors each year.  This year $1000 scholarships were awarded to Ana Rivera of VVHS, and Joe Sherman of Beaver Dam High School.  Ana has made plans to attend UNLV and Joe will attend Dixie State University.   Ana is a visual artist, and a number of her drawings and paintings are shown in the current gallery exhibition.  Joe is a country western musician who has written and recorded his own songs.

Student artists and scholarship winners will be honored for their achievements at a public reception at the gallery on Thursday, May 22, 4-6p.  The community is invited to share in this celebration of achievement, along with parents and friends of the students.

The Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery is located at 15 W. Mesquite Blvd, open Monday through Saturday, 10a-4p.  Phone 702-346-1338 or see www.mesquitefineartscenter.com for more information about the gallery and VVAA.