Metro-East News

Young buyers get to pick art for their Belleville schools

Booths deemed “too scary” were passed by quickly by the art-purchasing representatives of Union Elementary School at Art on the Square on Saturday morning. So were artists whose work featured breakable items and wearable art, no matter how many times Belleville District 118 school board member Gary Lawrence said, “Oh, jewelry for (Principal Lori) Taylor.”

Students from four Belleville District 118 schools were given $6,000 in Art Cash to spend at the show, with Union, Jefferson, Henry Raab and Westhaven evenly splitting the money to buy art to display in the buildings. The new program, called Art Education and Purchase Program, is sponsored by Wells Fargo Advisors.

Lawrence, a former art teacher, escorted four students from Union around the art show. He kept them on task — “it’s not for grandma; it’s for the school” after one was reminded of her grandmother’s style by one piece as they moved among most of the 100-plus booths. He dropped in some art knowledge along the way, pointing out alluring pieces and urging sixth-graders Natalie Reed, Anthony Marcano, Elise Moore and Kamyah El-Amin to share their opinions.

“Is this something we can see hanging at the school?” Lawrence asked as the four huddled in a booth of more abstract work.

“Oh! Those are fish — or are they penguins?” Kamyah asked. The group chose not to buy from that artist, although they did look at every piece.

Lilly Sabolay, the lone buyer from Henry Raab, said she was looking for paintings with bright colors. “No 3D stuff,” she said, because she was trying to get the most bang for her art bucks. Lilly was also avoiding much of the more abstract art.

“I don’t want to say it’s confusing (to younger students),” she said, but clarity and interest were important to her. Most of the pieces she bought were colorful, but she did get a pencil drawing by Robin Lauersdorf that had elephants marching off the page.

“Lilly is really thinking (that the art will be in) hallways,” said her mom, April. “She got the elephants walking off the page (because) it would be fun for kids to watch.”

Westhaven representatives did buy some breakable art, knowing that the school would provide a display case or another safe place for the vases.

Abbie Needham, 12, said her group was also looking at colorful pieces that stood out.

“We also like the dogs, thought the kids would like them,” she said, referring to the art by Gregg Billman.

Henry Raab and Union will both have pieces by John Leban, whose work was fanciful houses embedded into trees.

“It’s the Magic Tree House,” Kamyah said, referring to the book series by Mary Pope Osborne that is popular in elementary schools. Union will have several pieces by Leban gracing its walls; the prints from his booth made the bulk of Union’s purchase.

Like Leban, artist Marc James Villanueva offered a discount to the young buyers. Villanueva told the Union students that he was a “very non-traditional” painter, using recycled material on wood substrate or canvas. To the adults, he said the recycled material is wine glasses, not bottles because they are too firm. The Atlanta-area artist said he’s from Hawaii, and he likes to fuse the ideas of space and the ocean in his work.

“Go ahead and touch it,” he told the students. “Just no licking, OK?”

Want to hear the students talk about their purchases?

Student art buyers will be back at the Art on the Square at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday to present their purchases and explain why they liked what they did. The presentation will start after the high school awards are presented, art teacher Gail Lauth said.