Young artists make splash at Hancher

Exhibit to be open March 20-25

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IOWA CITY — Imagine them blowing the pink and purple paint dry. Or cutting with all the precision they can muster shapes to be pasted on self-portrait collages. Picture them pressing their dye-stained palms on white canvas. Or squinting in concentration, mid-sketch.

And then see them enter the new state-of-the-art Hancher, where thousands this season have seen the likes of Steve Martin, Yo-Yo Ma, and the Joffrey Ballet. See them hurry down the bright corridors in the 192,000-square-foot auditorium.

And then watch them glow with the pride of celebrated artists.

About 1,100 Johnson County youths and their family members last week converged in Hancher for a reception celebrating the return of its Youth Guild Art Show. The students’ art will remain on display for exhibitions from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. March 20-25.

On hiatus since the 2008 flood destroyed the University of Iowa’s original Hancher, the endeavor re-emerged this month in its mission to honor the community’s youngest talent and the educators who encourage their creativity and imagination.

“It was a tradition,” Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson said. “And it was a tradition that we definitely wanted to bring back to the new Hancher.”

Dating back to 1983, the annual event’s return this year featured about 400 student works from 29 Iowa City Community School District schools. Each school chose artwork form one class to display, representing kids in all grades — from kindergarten to high school senior.

The masterpieces touched on a variety of styles and artistic methods — from painting to sketch to stenciling to photograph collages. They were displayed on panels created by inmates in Iowa’s prisons.

“They really felt like they were a part of this — transforming lives and making a difference in people’s lives,” Swanson said of the inmates. “Our vision is Hancher strives to enrich the life of every Iowan through transformative, artistic experiences. So not only young people and people in our community, but these prisoners.”

Swanson said his staff is taking pictures of the display and sending them to the inmates.

“We help to transform their lives too,” he said.

The Hancher Guild, made up of about 400 volunteer members, coordinated the art show, and guild member Tracy Kueter — who led the endeavor — said preparations began even before the highly-anticipated building opened in the fall.

The show was judged by Anita Jung, a professor in the UI School of Art and Art History. She awarded one Hancher Award for Outstanding Secondary Art and one Candy Carmichael Award for Outstanding Elementary Art — named in memory of the longtime Iowa City schools art teacher.

Tirza Overholt came to Hancher last Monday with her family to see the art. But the Weber Elementary third-grader didn’t know exactly what to expect. Tirza said seeing her artwork on display was a pleasant surprise.

Even better was when she was named the Candy Carmichael winner.

“We were just so shocked,” her mom, Brooke Overholt, said, promising her family — starting with Tirza — won’t soon forget the experience.

“When I grow up, I think I’m going to be a famous artist,” Tirza said.

That, Swanson said, is exactly the point.

“It gives them goals they want to accomplish,” he said. “And it’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase all these great artists that we have in our own community.”

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