Little Kids Make Big Impact in Student Showcase

Every year I am wowed not only by the creativity of the young artists in our student showcases but also the hard work and impact of their dedicated teachers. We just deinstalled the fifth annual Denver Public Schools Elementary and Middle School Three-Dimensional showcase. This year’s show includes sculpture, ceramics, fiber, paper, free-standing, mixed media, and installation pieces. Of all the works on display, I am probably the most struck by the powerful art installation by Ms. Felix’s 2nd grade class at Holm Elementary School (facilitated by their art teacher, Kristen Herres). Entitled Voices Rising/Voces en Aumento, the piece consists of hanging cardboard branches with multilingual phrases woven throughout, and colorful leaves and small mounted prints of fantastical animals. Behind this installation is a powerful creative story, which their art teacher Ms. Herres displayed next to it:

The students began this study by exploring how plastic waste begins from storm drains, gyres in the ocean, and daily littering. They understood that although some of the littering is not accidental, many people are unaware of the effect it plays in nature and others may think the world is so big a little trash wouldn’t hurt. The students know it is their job to speak for the animals and their world and educate others on how to keep the earth clean. The students explored their own school grounds and gathered bags of trash, some of which they recycled or disposed of, and other trash was cleaned and selected to adorn their artwork with. Each of their animals has debris on it but used in a way to express the need for change. Upon finishing their animals the students each created an inkblot landscape to place their animals on to exemplify the permanency of this global problem if actions are not taken by all members of our society to stop this problem.

The papier mâché tree is an emblem of growth and can be added to over time by other classes or groups around the world. The branches reach out to our world with messages of hope and awareness. The leaves were an oil and water experiment we conducted to show the effect an oil spill has on animals and their habitat. Lastly, the students photographed their work and used a gel medium to transfer their images onto foam so their work could be more mobile and allow room for others to join in their efforts. In this installation, art and young hands will play a role in making all aware of this global problem through visual voices.

Wow. This installation is not just visually striking and inviting a closer look. When you read about the multi-stage lesson you can imagine how many aspects of learning and discovery that these kids experienced—and these are 2nd graders! When talking about the student showcases that the DAM hosts every year, I talk about the importance of celebrating and stimulating creativity and inspiring a greater understanding and connection with our world. I also imagine and hope that these early sparks of ideas could be the seeds for creativity and innovation in the future!

We have more student showcases coming up—and all promise to inspire in different ways. Showcases are presented on the lower level of the North Building and are included with general admission.

Colorado Scholastic Art Awards

March 7-April 4

Valdez Elementary

April 9-April 27

Denver Public Library Branch Programs

May 4-24

BEST OF SHOW: Grade K-5: Individual

Luz Lozano-Mireles, 4th Grade, The Ocean, sculpture/non-ceramic; Aimee Butterfield, Visual Arts Teacher, Knapp Elementary School

BEST OF SHOW: Grades K-5: Group Collaboration

Ms. Felix’s Class, 2nd Grade Class: Anthony Balbuena, Gael Blanco-Galvan, Monse Cabrera-Perez, Irvin Castro-Morales, Melissa Chan-Jimenez, Zamara Chavez-Santos, Alexa Cuevas-Lopes, Emily Estrada-Martinez, Axel Flores, Chelsey Francia-Garcia, Christian Gonzalez-Angulo, Jose Jaime-Sanchez, Gael Lopez-Carbajal, Christopher Lorenzana, Edwin Miranda-Amateco, Jonathan Moreno-Benitez, Danna Moreno-Ortiz, Kevin Nava-Blanco, Angel Nieto-Estrada, Sheyla Ortiz-Ochoa, Martin Pina-Guillermo, Derek Posada, Brenda Ramos-Aparicio, Issac Ruiz-Chavez, Manuel Villalba-Orozco, Voices Rising/Voces en Aumento, mixed media; Kristen Heeres, Visual Arts Teacher, Holm Elementary School

BEST IN SHOW: Grades 6–8: Individual

Marisol Gutierrez, 7th Grade, Untitled, mixed media; Judy Kilmek, Visual Arts Teacher, Grant Beacon Middle School

BEST OF SHOW: Grades 6–8: Group Collaboration

Rokaya Abdulameer, Brianna Aguilar, Nancy Anavisca-Donis, Maria Angel-Peralta, Mircia Chavira, Jennifer Cuevas-Morales, Esmer Gonzalez-Mejia, Arionna Kelly, Haley Knowlton, Bin La, Deja Heston-Holiday, Miriam Rios-Ibarra, Mi Nai San, Anthony Trujillo, 7th Grade Students, Prayer Patterns: Past, Present, Future, installation; Michelle Gallardo, Visual Art Teacher, Place Bridge Academy


Victoria Venegas, 5th Grade, Polar Bear Dog, sculptural ceramics; Jane Severance, Visual Art Teacher, Swansea Elementary School

EXEMPLARY TECHNIQUE AND SKILL: Grade K-5: Group Collaboration

Isaiah Maki, Eat Tacos, It’s Good, Javier Villegas, Treehouse, Tony Benitez, Soccer Arena, Alexus Kinder, Bella’s Place, Jasmine Mason, House on Stilts, Salem Hailu, Restaurant Salem, Davon Haralson, House with Basketball Court, Nalani P. Shore, Hotel/Rooms, Lizeth Alonso-Montiel, Yogurt Shop, John Collins, Rounded Tower, Jevonte Hughes, Basketball Arena, Darius Boyer & Marcus Stokes, Hockey Arena, 5th Grade Students, Architecture, mixed media; Melinda Laz and Kristen Johnson, Visual Arts Teachers, McMeen Elementary School

EXEMPLARY TECHNIQUE AND SKILL: Grades 6–8: Group Collaboration

Alonso Vasquez-Orozco, Rigoberto LLaguno-Castorena, Karla Lucio, Christian Prieto-Lopez, 8th Grade, Scary Square Pants and Friends, sculptural ceramics; Ted Tessendorf, Visual Art Teacher, Bruce Randolph Middle School


Jareb Ramos, 4th Grade, Colorful Swan, sculpture/non-ceramic; Lisa Freedberg, Visual Art Teacher, Southmoor Elementary School


Mauri Olguin, 8th Grade, Entrances, ceramics relief; Brooke Fawley, Visual Arts Teacher, Marie Greenwood Academy ECE-8

KUDOS: Grades K-5

Autumn Vultao, 5th Grade, Praying Person, sculpture/non-ceramic; Luann Hale-Grans, Visual Arts Teacher, Sabin World School

KUDOS: Grades K-5

Jason Hetzel, 5th Grade, Eleanor Rawlinson, 12th Grade Mentor, Blue Dragon, sculptural ceramics; Lisa Freedberg, Visual Arts Teacher, Southmoor Elementary School and Craig Ackley, Ceramics Teacher, East High School (NOTE: This is a special collaboration between Southmoor Elementary School Visual Arts Teacher, Lisa Freedberg and East High Ceramics Teacher, Craig Ackley. This collaboration brings together 12th grade advanced ceramics students to mentor 5th grade visual arts students.)

KUDOS: Grades 6- 8

Frank Bargas, 8th Grade, Jackie Robinson Bust, sculptural ceramics; Jennifer Cooper, Visual Arts Teacher, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy Middle School

KUDOS: Grades 6- 8

Katherine Wilson, 8th Grade, Camouflage Cubism, sculpture/non-ceramic; Julie Weir, Visual Arts Teacher, Dora Moore ECE-8 School

KUDOS: Grades 6- 8

Jackson Reid, 7th Grade, The Zombies, sculptural ceramics; Timothea Biermann, Visual Arts Teacher, Slavens K-8 School

Ellen Spangler is the school tour specialist in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum. Ellen has been at the DAM since 2008 and her favorite artwork at the DAM is Mud Woman Rolls On, for which she gained a new appreciation after having a daughter in 2012. She is in constant awe of the fresh perspective that young children bring when experiencing art together.