“I did my wings with fingers,” says 4-year-old Lena Busby and points to the framed picture of an owl cut from purple construction paper. Lena's owl has large, round, yellow eyes and blue handprints for wings. A caption printed above the owl's head in black crayon with blue paper circles for each “O” reads, “Owl Always Love You.”
Lena's owl hangs in the Elizabeth Town Hall boardroom directly above her sister Alyssa's cutout snowman pasted against a blue paper background, near the spot where her brother Brandon's untitled painting hangs in the entry.
The three siblings' creations are part of an exhibit of 25 winter-themed works chosen by the Elizabeth Public Arts Committee, selected from around 50 entries from local artists ranging from Lena's age to their 60s. Each winning piece hangs in either the town hall entry or boardroom, where they will remain for three months.
Nearly 30 of the winners, guests and members of the arts committee gathered at the town hall on a snowy evening in late January to celebrate the selection of the work and participate in the town's Winter Public Art Forum.
The town holds art forums quarterly and invites anyone interested to attend. Community Development Director Rachel Hodgson reads the names of the winners to a circle of guests that grows larger as late arrivals trickle in. Following each name, Hodgson reads the medium the artist used: watercolors, painting, Photoshop drawings, pencil, colored pencil, photography, soft pastels, mixed media.
“And paper,” says Lena's older sister, Alyssa, who is a flurry of giggles throughout the meeting.
In addition to celebrating the winners, participants in the art forum join open-ended discussions about art in the Elizabeth area as well as engage with Hodgson's agenda for promoting local artists and enhancing art events sponsored by the town.
The discussions range from several upcoming art projects planned at the Elizabeth High School to ideas for enhancing the already popular Music and Arts Festival set for August.
School group has art focus
Elizabeth High School art teacher Candice Tauger and her art students are first on the agenda. Tauger has been the art teacher at the high school for six years and this year began sponsoring the National Art Honor Society (NAHS), which she brought to the school.
The NAHS, a national program, is designed for high school students and was created in 1978 “to inspire and recognize students who have shown an outstanding ability and interest in art.”
“We're starting our organization, and we're trying to be involved a little more in the community, that's part of being in this honor society,” Tauger says to the forum. “One of the big ones (projects) is doing the mural in the community conference room in the Elizabeth Library.”
The final design for the mural has not been decided, but the planned theme is the history of Elizabeth. Once a sketch is approved, the students will go to work and hope to have it completed by the end of the school year.
“We have a big community day coming up. The entire school is going to be involved with this community day where students will go out for about three hours and do different things for the community,” Tauger says. “That's when we're going to go in there and get involved with the mural.”
Before handing the floor over to the Elizabeth Public Arts Committee for an update on the Elizabeth Music and Arts Festival, Hodgson makes a call for entries to the next forum in April.
“Our next one is a springtime theme, so that can be interpreted any way you artists would like to interpret it,” Hodgson said. “So please submit your art for that.”
The Elizabeth Public Arts Committee is an all-volunteer organization established in January 2014. The committee spent most of its first year preparing for the Elizabeth Music and Arts Festival. It later held its first art forum in November 2014 and since then has continued the tradition of the quarterly forums to encourage public involvement with local arts, including the music and arts festival.
More artists sought
The musical element of the Elizabeth Music and Arts Festival has been historically solid, and this year, the Elizabeth Public Arts Committee is hoping to enhance the art portion by encouraging more artists to participate, including performance art and acrobats.
“These ideas are what we are looking for. We're trying to have something this unique that kids can go into or a family, vintage old-town stuff,” says Dan Kelly, committee member. “The more involvement the community has, the better we'll be.”
This year, the Elizabeth Music and Arts Festival is planned for Aug. 12-13. Sidewalk art and interactive children's activities will once again be part of the festival, as well as a return of the car show with the possible addition of a tractor component.
By the end of the forum, Lena and Alyssa have made a large dent in the supply of cookies and juice set up next to a wall, and the arts committee wraps up discussions on additional locations to display art in the community.
The next art forum is scheduled for April 25, and artists wanting to enter their art are encouraged to submit a photo of their work attached to an email to the town no later than 5 p.m. on April 15. Send the email to Hodgson at email@example.com.