MUSCATINE, Iowa–Though many of the Muscatine Art Center’s collections focus on the works of adult artists, children frequently stand out as some of the most creative people. To showcase the skill of Muscatine’s budding artists, the Art Center rotates between hosting a fourth and fifth grade and a junior and senior high school art show each year. This year, the Art Center has highlighted the work of area elementary school students both through their traditional art show and through a new downtown art walk.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people have visited the Art Center in person out of concerns for spending time indoors with others. Understanding this change, Art Center staff and their Director, Melanie Alexander, worked together to expand the reach of the student art show by developing an outdoor component.
Six years ago, when the Art Center celebrated its 50th anniversary, it celebrated this achievement by commissioning a series of banners with different works of art on them to hang up downtown. “It was so much fun to have the banners downtown and it was almost like having an art installation in a way,” remembers Alexander.
Wanting to bring back this excitement and remind city residents that the Art Center continues to host a variety of shows throughout the year, Alexander and others worked together to have banners printed highlighting the work of fourth and fifth grade students from each of the city’s different elementary schools. “It dresses up the downtown and it shows off student art work,” she said. Currently, the banners hang along Second Street between Iowa Avenue and Pine Street. The Art Center does not have a set timeframe for taking them down and anticipates they will stay up through much of the month of May and possibly into the summer.
Along with this outdoor attraction, the Art Center has started easing back into the practice of holding exhibitions and receptions in their galleries with the student art show. Currently, pieces from many Muscatine area fourth and fifth graders (including those who attend Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School) adorn the walls and cases of the Art Center, and Alexander hopes many people will take this chance to see what students have worked hard on this year. In particular, she thinks gallery visitors will enjoy colorful sculptures of plates of food made from airdry clay and self portraits created by Jefferson Elementary students using their recently purchased Colors of the World crayons.
To celebrate the students who made each of the works featured, the Art Center will hold a closing reception May 16 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. “It’s a little bit modified from the way we usually do receptions,” observed Alexander. Still, the event will allow students and their well wishers to safely gather and enjoy their art. During the reception, students can pick up a to go bag of snacks courtesy of Hy-Vee. The Art Center will also include a grab and go craft bag for students to take home. For those wanting to gather outside, Art Center staff will play music on their calliope. Throughout the reception, the Art Center requests visitors to wear a mask and social distance whenever possible.