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High school art show expands
Each spring, the Radford University Art Museum offers regional high school students an opportunity to share their work and compete for accolades and cash prizes. With more students receiving part or all of their education online these days, the event has recently seen expanded participation from virtual students.
Laura Graham teaches art classes in the K-12 system in an entirely online format known as Virtual Virginia, and this year, she was able to invite her students to participate as well.
Graham, a 2010 Radford University Art graduate, taught at Christiansburg High in the past and knew about the contest. She’s also been teaching courses at Radford University as an adjunct, and through her relationship with Theresa Rykaczewski, the Art Museum Manager, Graham got an invitation to reach out to her students.
“I want to thank Theresa for doing that,” Graham said, because it opened a door that her students would not have even known about.
“I just sent them all an email and said, ‘There's this awesome opportunity at Radford and you could have your work in a gallery space, which is always fun to see, and a cash prize.’”
Two of her students, one from Roanoke and the other from Alta Vista, jumped at the chance and were excited to have their work hanging on a gallery wall for the first time.
Graham says it is important to make sure all types of students have a chance to participate, no matter how they receive part of all of their public education.
“Both students, I think, use art as a hobby, and so when they were invited to display their work, it was reaffirming to them that their artistic production had value,” Graham explained.
"I try to encourage students and let them know they're capable of making visual art worth seeing. Having a picture up on the wall that other people can look at and experience is very valuable to them.”
The show was a success in many other ways, expanding its reach, participation and attendance this year.
According to Rykaczewski, the 2024 Southwest Virginia High School show featured 72 artworks, including 13 sculptures, by over a dozen local schools, with each piece produced by a different artist.
The February 3 reception was attended by 124 guests, one of the largest attendances ever for this exhibit. Following awards and announcements, a tour was provided by Dr. Stuart Robinson of Radford University’s art studios.
The show was juried by Barbara Tait, Ken Smith, Carlee Bradbury and six graduate students. In addition to the awards and prizes, jurors were able to provide written encouragement for the artists as part of their feedback.
The Southwest Virginia High School Art Show runs in the Tyler Gallery in downtown Radford (next to BT’s on Tyler Avenue) through February 17. The show is free and open to the public during regular gallery hours, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, noon until 4 p.m.