'Come February, the walls will bloom again'


Dr. Deborah Carrington sorts artwork in preparation for display in JMU's Memorial Hall hallway
Dr. Deborah Carrington prepares for the 2014 Area Youth Art Exhibition

Walking through Memorial Hall in December and January, you are sure to notice one thing – the lack of artwork on the walls. Gone are the colorful paintings and unique self-portraits, replaced by sterile white walls of a typical institutional building. But come February, the dull is replaced with vibrant artwork again from the 7th Annual Area Youth Art Exhibition.

Dr. Deborah Carrington, professor of early, elementary and reading education, started the first exhibit in the spring of 2008 with only 32 pieces from Harrisonburg City Public Schools students. This year, the display will feature up to 105 pieces and will include 3-D work and, for the first time, iPad-generated art. The exhibition runs from Feb. 16 through Dec. 16 and fills the walls of the first-floor hallway and courses to the second floor.

It’s difficult to say that the exhibit serves a singular purpose; in fact, it has multiple. One of the most important is to build and maintain a relationship between JMU and local schools. The exhibit alternates between showcasing the art of students in Harrisonburg City Public Schools and private schools in odd-numbered years, and Rockingham County Public Schools in even-numbered years. Artwork by students at Eastern Mennonite School, Redeemer Classical School and Woodland Montessori School joins this year's exhibition.

The exhibit will often draw area schools, senior groups and other community groups who want to appreciate the local young artists. Carrington says that when the community shows appreciation for artistic skills, the benefits can be enormous. “When the college and the community at large acknowledge that this is an important skill, that sends positive and strong messages to the students, that ‘hey, this is valued.’ Research shows that if these kinds of skills are not acknowledged or validated, they will diminish.”

The art exhibit doesn’t just benefit local students and the community, though. JMU College of Education students have found it to be an important resource in their studies as well. Early childhood, developmental and other COE classes use the exhibit to track and showcase developmental milestones of young children.

The artwork also helps the JMU students and faculty to understand those they are preparing to serve. “The young people – those in kindergarten all the way through seniors in high school – have a unique perspective on the world. And when they share their work with us, we get a glimpse into that and see new facets of the world,” said Carrington.

More than just creating an aesthetically pleasing environment, the artwork reminds students and faculty why they are at JMU – to become exceptional educators of K-12 children.

The 7th Annual Area Youth Art Exhibition will officially open with a public reception on Sunday, Feb. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Memorial Hall. The reception will draw together area teachers, principals, parents, JMU faculty, and of course, the area youth.

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Feb. 13, 2014

By Kelly Vingelis (’14)

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Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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