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District Art Exhibition highlights amazing artwork by Douglas County students, builds confidence of young artists

LONE TREE- The halls of the Lone Tree Events Center are filled with artwork of hundreds of Douglas County School District students.

A drawing and sculpture by Renaissance Expeditionary Learning Magnet School student, Cooper Whatmore, are two of the works selected for the 2016 District Art Exhibition.

“I’m kind of nervous,” Whatmore said, with a pause. “But I am proud of it and I know my mom is proud of me.”

Whatmore and his family will be going to see the work while it is display this weekend. The show continues until Monday, March 14.

“I do feel proud and I do feel like an artist, I guess,” Whatmore said. “To be more like an artist I need to do it more, so I’ll want to practice it more.” 

His art teacher, Pamela Cogburn, says Whatmore, like many of her other students do not initially see themselves as artists.  After some prodding, he began to show his creativity.

“She definitely did make us feel a lot more confident about what we were trying to complete,” Whatmore said. “It was a little bit of trial and error. First, I did some sketches at home to see what I wanted it to look like.”

Before long, his work was worthy of being shared.

“I’m starting to believe that is the key to everything: having confidence in yourself,” Cogburn said.

For the past several years Renaissance has worked to build this kind of confidence through its Life is Art event during which artwork from every student at the school is displayed for school families and community members. As you can imagine, that is quite a task for Cogburn and the rest of the staff at Renaissance.

“Everyone has to have a piece of art and I do not want anyone left out,” Cogburn said. “I get a sense of urgency when I know that we have this deadline.”

Additionally, the students also engage in performing arts. For instance, drumming circles are performed for visitors and some students staged monologues that tied to their artwork. In one tear-jerking case, a student who featured his grandpa had the opportunity to show him his artwork and perform his monologue for him.

“Kids can see that craftsmanship is important. The care that I put in my work is going to be important. If I put my effort and care in it, I’m producing this high quality work that others can see and I can tell my story. I can communicate visually.

“They were at Life is Art and the grandpa came and they were taking pictures and it was so sweet. It was such a nice moment,” Cogburn said.
Several of those pieces are now on display in the District’s Art Show, along side work by kindergarten through twelfth-grade students from across DCSD.

“I am just really proud of all the students and really honored to work with these teachers that inspire the students,” Cogburn said, while walking through the exhibition. 

A group of four intrepid art teachers are behind this year’s event, including Cogburn, Kim Betschart of Pioneer Elementary, Bethany Conrad of Heritage Elementary and Kim Chlumsky of Rocky Heights Middle School. From arranging funding and contracting the venue to coordinating all the artwork and actual set up, it is a lot of work. Not to mention the work done by individual art teachers and DCSD's Operations and Maintenance Department, including Edgar Avila, Matt Olson, Kevin Banuelos, Jonathan Robles and Josh Peas.

Next year the show might look a bit different.

“It will be morphing more after this year,” Cogburn said. “Our District is just getting too big to sustain this kind of thing—in this way.”

Art teachers from across the District will meet this spring to discuss possible alternatives.

For now, the reward is knowing how much the students and their families enjoy the exhibition.

“We have all been working long hours to get everything ready. I’m a little relieved too that it all is up and went up successfully without any hiccups,” Chlumsky said. “It is for such a great cause. When you start to see kids coming in – they are so excited to see their work. I think that is my favorite part—seeing the kids.”

Often it is possible to see families grouped around an artwork, taking photos of their child and their contribution.

“I’ve seen them get tears in their eyes, because their kids feel that success about creating something and being proud of it,” Cogburn said.

Whatmore hopes the show will inspire even more students to participate in the arts in the future.

“I would encourage people to try to let their creativity run wild and make their work what they want it to be,” Whatmore said.

Learn more about the exhibition at

Take a virtual tour of the exhibit by checking out our Facebook photo gallery.

March 10, 2016 | By rmbarber | Category: Elementary Education, High School Education, Middle School Education, Schools

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