Arlington Heights celebrates 25 years of District 25 artwork

Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 student artists this week celebrated the launch of the district's annual art show at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, marking the 25th year of the exhibition.

More than 250 pieces of student artwork from all seven elementary schools and two middle schools are on display in the library's first floor Marketplace, Kids' World section and lobby through May 27. The creations include all types of paintings - from watercolor to acrylic, oil to pastel - 3-D pieces, and for the first time, digital art (three iPads display movies created by students at Dryden Elementary).

Some 400 students in grades K-8 completed individual pieces or collaborated on projects that are on display. On Wednesday night, they were honored at an opening night reception, which also featured a performance by the Thomas Middle School Jazz Band.

The library began featuring student artwork in two display cases in 1992, but as the artwork became popular, four more displays were added in 1996 and it turned into an annual monthlong exhibit.

It was also 25 years ago when District 25 expanded its classroom art instruction following voter approval of a referendum to increase school funding. Each school got its own art room, and art teachers were hired to teach classes.

Fred DeMarco, an art teacher at Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary who helps coordinate the annual art show, is one of nine art instructors in the district today.

"I think Arlington Heights is a special place for a lot of reasons - one of them is the fact we're even having this conversation in an era where school funding is being slashed at the state and federal level," DeMarco said. "Here we have a district where art is appreciated and valued by parents, the community and administrators."

Art teachers from every District 25 school evaluate their students' artwork throughout the school year and select a few pieces for the library exhibition. Student work is also on display in school buildings and at the District 25 administration building.

"I look for work that I think is exceptional - that's really creative and well-executed," DeMarco said. "I also look at: Is this a student who constantly does well in art, or is this an example of them growing as a creator?"

One of the student artists in the annual District 25 art show admires a display at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Some 400 students in grades K-8 have their artwork in the exhibition. Courtesy of Arlington Heights Elementary District 25
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