Zeeland West High School (ZWHS) Art instructor Debra Kemppainen and Zeeland East High School (ZEHS) Art instructor Michelle Fuller both wanted a way to link education and art in the Zeeland community so their students could share their experiences and talents, make connections, and become part of a lifelong learning community. After putting their heads together and taking notes from programs at other schools, Zeeland hosted their first Art te Leen, Dutch for Art to Loan, in 2016/17.
"When we announced to our students the concept of an art competition with curated pieces available for loaning to local businesses their response was fantastic. Students submitted over 100 entries for only 25 spots," Debra says. During the event, students are on hand allowing interested parties the opportunity to ask the artists detailed questions about the technique and process behind their art thus providing a fuller picture of what goes on in an art classroom.
"It makes our students feel like a million bucks when someone comes over and says they really like the work," Michelle says. "Seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing the conversations they have brings light to what we are trying to accomplish, which is to show students that art is valued and brings communities together."
Now in its third year, the event displays student art in a gallery setting for local businesses to bid on. Winners receive the art pieces for a 13-month lease. After that, the art returns to the student artist. Payment from patrons covers the expense of professionally framing the artwork.
ZEHS student Lauryn McFall submitted a painting consideration in the inaugural year titled Arizona Landscape. Despite her considerable interest in art, Lauryn did not enroll in an art class until her junior year. She took Beginning Drawing and Design, taught by Debra that allowed Lauryn to expand her talent into various mediums of creation.
"In class, I learned about different art forms aside from drawing, such as painting and graphics," Lauryn says. "It challenged me because I had the chance to work with concepts like monochromatic color and design."
Lauryn used these techniques in her painting inspired by a photo she found online of rock formations. The painting, which includes several shades of orange, imitates the curvatures of the landscape through carefully placed lines and shading. In the center are two people walking through the formation.
"Lauryn worked hard to perfect her piece during the school year to clearly communicate her message through art," Debra says. "She always paid close attention to the details. As a result, she was one of the students selected to show their art to the community."
Medical offices, restaurants, and insurance agencies are among the many businesses that host student artwork. A local doctor won Lauryn's Arizona Landscape and, after hanging in her Grand Rapids office for a year, the piece now proudly hangs in the McFall home.
After seeing her work appreciated by others, Lauryn's confidence in her creative ability grew dramatically.
"I really loved participating in Art te Leen," Lauryn says. "I enjoyed seeing the work of other students, and it felt really great to connect with other people who thought my art was pretty good, too."
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