Spectators walk through the Artmazon at Rushe Middle School.
By B.C. Manion
Kendra Gagnon painted her face and created a cat costume to get into the spirit for “Explore the Artmazon,” a student art show at Rushe Middle School.
She’s only 12, but she has already developed a keen interest in art.
“I love it,” said the seventh-grader, while showing off one of her works on display at the show. “Ms. Mo is great. She is just awesome. She’s really calm.
“She lets us do really awesome projects. She lets us be creative.
“The art show is great. It shows everybody’s creativity. It gives everyone a chance to show off their work. Some of the stuff in the art show is just phenomenal.”
Shannon Gagnon, who is Kendra’s mom, is pleased that her daughter has an opportunity to showcase her work.
“I’m her mom, so I’m biased. I think she’s definitely talented. Being in the program has given her more of an open mind to new concepts,” Shannon Gagnon said.
“It’s been a wonderful creative outlet for her,” she said, and she expects her daughter will continue developing her artistic interest for years to come.
She thinks her daughter’s interest is inborn.
“She’s been drawing since she was 3,” Shannon Gagnon said.
The seventh-grader had a painting and some digital prints on display at the show – which featured hundreds of student works — displayed on tables, stands, walls and even the railing of a staircase. There was digital photography, 3-D creations, paintings and drawings.
Some art club members wore rainforest-themed costumes or beaks with feathers, to celebrate the show’s theme. Principal David Salerno even got into the act, donning a beak with feathers to demonstrate his support.
Art teacher Jilda Morera, who is called Ms. Mo by her students, said having these kinds of shows provides an important forum where students can share their work with the community.
“It’s important for us to be able to show how creative our students are,” the teacher said, and it allows the community to demonstrate their support.
Besides being a showcase for the students, the event was also a fundraiser. The teacher wants to buy some digital cameras to help her students more fully explore their talents.
The rainforest theme was in keeping with an enormous tree that the art teacher painted in the school’s atrium. It stretches three stories high.
She estimated that she spent about 30 hours on a cherry picker, working on the tree.
Principal Salerno commissioned the painting to enliven a space that gets heavy traffic each school day.
Salerno said the school art show creates a great opportunity for students to share their work.
Pasco County School Board Chairwoman Joanne Hurley and her husband, John, were among those attending the show.
“It just shows the enthusiasm of this teacher. She is marvelous. We would like to clone her,” Hurley said.
The school board chairwoman was also pleased to see a good turnout at the art show.
“You always see a lot of people at football games or athletic events, but it’s so heartwarming to see the crowd that has turned out tonight to see this wonderful art.”
Her husband, John, was impressed by the quality of the students’ work.
“These kids are really talented,” he said.
While being pleased to see her daughter’s work on display, Shannon Gagnon said she is also glad that the school district supports the arts – and allows students to pursue the creative side of their nature.
“I definitely think it’s an important part of a school’s curriculum. It gives them (students) a place to express themselves in a healthy manner. They need an outlet that’s safe. It’s part of a child’s development, I think.”
It’s important for students to have a place to express themselves at school because they don’t always get the support they need at home, she added.
“Some kids’ families don’t understand how important creativity is – if they have that knack for it and they love it, they need encouragement.”