MUSCATINE, Iowa–In March of 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly cut the annual Young Artists at the Figge exhibition at the Figge Art Museum to an abrupt end. This year, the museum and the area schools that participate in the exhibit, including all six of Muscatine’s elementary schools, have collaborated to put the exhibit on and honor the area’s most talented young artists in a way that keeps everyone involved safe.
From Feb. 27 through Mar. 7, 109 kindergarten through sixth grade students will have their art on display at the Figge. Since the museum has reopened to the public, anyone may visit and see the student’s work in person, so long as they follow the public health guidelines the Figge has in place. They include correctly wearing a mask, social distancing, and respecting limits on the number of people who can visit each gallery at one time. For those who would feel more comfortable viewing students’ work online, they may visit the Figge’s website.
In year’s past, the Figge has held recognition days for the students featured in the exhibition. The museum would offer free admission for all, and the young artists and their teachers would visit and participate in a recognition ceremony. Though students will not meet for a large group gathering this year, the Figge has found several ways to continue to honor Muscatine’s most promising young artists. These include providing free passes for the students and their families to use to come see their art work at their convenience, certificates for their art teachers to present to them in class, and a video showing their work as part of the installation that their teachers will show at school.
In a difficult time, Studio School and Education Galleries Coordinator Brian Allen considers the exhibition a triumphant display of the strength of area schools, the community and the boundless creativity of children. As he explained in an introduction to the exhibit hung on the gallery wall: “The Young Artists Exhibition is a showcase of student creativity and artistic expression that acts as a testament to the quality art programs in the local school systems that are supported in homes. Each artwork stands as an emblem of courage in spite of the challenges this past year has brought.”
Kent Corporation, who sponsors Muscatine’s participating students each year, welcomed the return of the exhibit as well. “Kent Corporation is thrilled to support Muscatine’s talented young artists by sponsoring the 2021 Young Artists at the Figge exhibit this week,” said Kent Corporation Corporate Spokesperson Carol Reynolds. “We welcome the opportunity to encourage creativity, arts and culture in our future generations.”
Despite not having all of the fanfare of previous years, the Muscatine students featured in the exhibit still took great pride in their accomplishments. James Miller, a first grader at Franklin Elementary school shared Nora’s joy. “I was really excited and happy because my snowman project went into the museum,” he shared. “Art makes me feel good.”