by Jamie Hiskes
LANSING, Ill. (April 7, 2019) – Excitement and pride electrified the Grand Lobby of TF South High School April 5 as about 200 students, parents, and friends gathered for the annual TF South Student Art Show. Throughout the lobby, two- and three-dimensional art pieces were displayed for viewing and judging—some were even available for purchase.
The artwork on display included pencil, ink, and charcoal drawings; paintings; digital photographs; and sculptures made of clay, papier-mâché, wire, and nylon. According to Lauren Bruntjens, one of TF South’s four art teachers, the school has 17 art classes with roughly 25 students in each one. The show comprised an impressive representation of many styles from those classes.
“We always love to see the community come out and see all the support from parents and families who get to enjoy the work,” said Bruntjens. “A lot of it I haven’t even seen, so it’s exciting for me as well.”
Pride, euphoria, and inspiration
Kumba Abu, the aunt of TF South first-year student Ari O’Dell, was one of the many proud family members attending the show. As she approached one of O’Dell’s drawings, she beamed and exclaimed, “That’s my niece!”
“It’s so euphoric to see not only her piece, but to see just how talented these kids are,” Abu said.
As a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Abu said she’s attended art galleries for “adult” artists, but never a student art show before—and this one left her inspired.
“It just shows you shouldn’t underestimate youth,” she said. “We shouldn’t categorize children as being absent-minded and all about themselves. This art—looking at all these pieces—just tells me how selfless this generation is becoming.”
Despite the smiling faces of students and families as they took in the artwork filling the lobby, there was a bittersweet note to this year’s show. Art teacher Mary Fry has been at TF South since 2002, and she’ll be retiring after this year. This was the last art show she’ll attend as a teacher.
“It feels weird,” Fry said. “It probably won’t really hit me until the fall, when I don’t have to come back.”
Fry said the TF South Art Show is one of her favorite events of the year because it gives her an opportunity to meet people and see how her students have grown in their skills.
“The kids are so incredible with their ability to render and finish pieces with different tecniques and methods,” she said. “A couple times I had to step back and say, ‘I’m teaching, and they’re actually doing it!’ So that’s exciting.”
After enjoying the art for about an hour, the guests filed into the Henry L. Hertz Auditorium for the awards ceremony. TF South’s four art teachers—Bruntjens, Fry, Mike Misch, and Michelle Owens—began the ceremony by thanking everyone for coming to the art show and expressing their pride in TF South’s art students.
The first awards to be handed out were the two District Selections—a pencil drawing of a penguin by Anya Yadron, and a charcoal portrait by Mia Alvarado. Next, TF South Principal Jake Gourley awarded a digital art piece by Max Bautista-Romero with his yearly Award of Distinction. Bruntjens then awarded Sydney Rosinia-Cowen’s drawing of TF South’s front entrance with the Creative Merit Award and announced that it would be purchased by the school for permanent display.
“I can’t speak highly enough of our art programs here [at TF South],” Gourley said as he was presenting the award. “I always want students to find a home here. If you look around this room and at the passion out there in that lobby, so many of our kids find a home in the art department. That means a lot to me.”
Finally, Misch awarded Brooke Riddick’s multicolored portrait of “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman with the People’s Choice Award, which students and faculty had voted for earlier in the week.
Following these major awards were a series of 20 Artistic Merit Awards for painting, drawing, sculpting, and digital artwork. Winners included a charcoal portrait of singer John Lennon by Riley Duggan, a digital photograph of jellyfish by Faith Wilson, and a detailed colored pencil drawing of a camera by Hendrianne Dixon, who wept happily as she accepted her ribbon.
After the first- and second-place awards were given for each art class, the two Best in Show Awards were given out. Senior Daisy Alvarez won the 2-D Best in Show Award for an inspiring black-and-white pen drawing of a girl with pink roses in her short hair. 3-D Best in Show went to senior Claire Redikop for her nylon and wireform sculpture painted to look like a blustery winter night.
One more award
The Best in Show Awards weren’t the final distinctions to be handed out that evening. To her surprise, Fry was then recognized by Owens, Bruntjens and Misch with her own award—jokingly called an “Arty,” as opposed to a Grammy.
“You’ve taught thousands of students, you’ve gone to hundreds of meetings, had three brilliant colleagues and you’re one happy retiree with countless memories and plenty of good times still to come,” Bruntjens said as she gave Fry the award. “We couldn’t let the night go by without recognizing all your time and hard work and dedication.”
Fry happily accepted the trophy, along with hugs and words of appreciation from her colleagues.
“Please continue to support the arts,” she said in her closing statement following the ceremony. “No matter if you go into it for a career or if it’s a hobby, it’s such a joy and a solace to the soul. That’s what we see every single day, and that’s what we hope to impress upon our students.”
TF South High School is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois.