By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – It has been said art is in the eye of the beholder and on May 2, there were more than 400 artistic creations to behold at the Elkhart Middle School (EMS) Gymnasium.

Under the direction of EMS art teacher Amanda Lobasso, the Tuesday event showcased the talents of students in grades six through eight and was very well received by everyone in attendance.

The Fourth Annual Art Show was initiated during her first year in Elkhart, Lobasso said.

“We needed a place to display all the students’ art work. I displayed them in my classroom and I displayed them in the library throughout the year, but we needed a big event to highlight everyone’s art work and invite the community to come and particip ate,” she said.

While speak ing with those in attendance about the various exhibits and styles displayed throughout the gym, Lobasso was asked why she believed art was important to a student’s well-rounded education.

“That’s a deep question,” she replied. “I think it is so important because there is such an emphasis placed on testing. I know testing is important, but art allows for an escape. It allows a student to use the creative part of their mind whereas they are using the analytical and logical part of their mind for reading and math.”

Another reason Lobasso said art classes were important was because it helped to balance out the emphasis placed on athletic comp etitio n in high schools throughout East Texas.

“For some kids, that’s just not their thing. I participated in sports, but it really wasn’t me,” she explained. “I feel like art, theater or band might be more their type of thing and they need those outlets. Some kids get up and come to school in the morning because they know they’re going to art or theater or band and they need those classes. That’s what keeps them coming to school.”

It also helps the students to succeed down the road, the art teacher added.

“If they can learn an art technique they couldn’t do at the start, they begin to have a belief in themselves and they start to apply that same belief to other areas in their lives,” Lobasso said.

A graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, Lobasso said like many college freshmen she was unsure about what she wanted to major in when she first enrolled, but quickly decided to follow her passion for art. She traced her interest in the art world back to her days when she was a student at Elkhart High.

“I started taking art classes when I was here in high school. The current high school art teacher (Kathy Marlowe) was my art teacher. After that, I thought to myself I definitely wanted to do something in art after I graduated high school,” Lobasso said.

Lobasso’s fondness for the handicraft resulted in an art education degree while at SFA and her acceptance of a position with Elkhart ISD shortly after graduation.

As she wandered by artworks depicting a “bird’s eye view,” Lobasso commented this type of project gave students a different perspective from which to look at the world.

“Also, these (bird’s eye view sketches) are quite mathematical. It has a lot of measurement involved. All the lines are drawn with a ruler to make sure everything is properly arranged and looks three dimensional. We use a vanishing point to create this. So, in the middle of their paper, almost every single line we draw goes to that vanishing point. It has to be very precise. Even if it’s a little bit off, it will show,” she said.

Next, Lobasso discussed the landscape paintings on display.

“The students had to select a silhouette of their choice. Then, they had to use rolling hills to create depth and space in their work. I also taught the students how to blend colors – to go from one color to another with paint. They had to have three modulated colors in the background which creates an ethereal sunrise/sunset type of look,” she said.

One of the more popular exhibits, according to Lobasso, was the 3-D letters spread throughout the room.

“We just finished those. The students got to pick whatever letter they wanted and then we created them with cardboard. They drew their letter, papier-mâchéd it and then they were able to decorate it in any way they wanted. Many of the students went above and beyond,” she commented.

Another area of the temporary art gallery featured the medium of Styrofoam™.

“I like creating art out of unlikely materials and that’s definitely one,” Lobasso laughed. “We used a Styrofoam™ plate and the kids came up with a design, or some kind of subject matter. They drew it into their Styrofoam where it created an indentation. Then, we inked up the plate using a brayer and pre-making our ink. They treated it as if it were a giant stamp and they had to make a rendition of four prints. It came out of really neat. Andy Warhol was our inspiration for this.”

A second unique art material prominently featured involved the use of shaving cream and liquid water colors. Lobasso described the process and said the students sprayed the shaving cream on a table, mixed in the water color, then took a comb and spread it around the table.

“The students would then take a piece of paper, place it on the mixture and the design would be transferred onto the paper,” she said.

After viewing the student self-portraits and various charcoal sketches, the final exhibit Lobasso spotlighted was hung on both ends
of the gym and was what she termed a collaborative ribbon.

“We didn’t have enough space to put it on one wall so we put it on both. That was a huge group effort. The students had their own individual artwork and then they pieced it together like a puzzle to create one continuous piece. Our emphasis was on unity, especially since they have to work very closely together. We used oil pastels for the main ribbon and then we used pen and ink techniques such as hatching and cross hatching for the shading of the black and white ribbons in the background,” she said.

Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.