“River of Words” Children’s Art & Poetry Exhibit Returns To SMC

Painting by Seoyoung Eileen Hwang, 15, of Coquitlam, BC, Canada

Painting by Seoyoung Eileen Hwang, 15, of Coquitlam, BC, Canada

By Alexa Jobe

Collegian — Vibrantly-colored paint strokes contrast with black ink and white sheets in River of Words: a collection of children’s art and poetry from around the world. From September 30th to October 20th, the Art and Art History Departments at Saint Mary’s College of California are hosting this collection on-campus in Gallery 160.

Students enrolled in this semester’s “Art Gallery Team” class assist in putting on the show. Faculty, family, and friends of the college are invited to visit the exhibit and enjoy refreshments at a reception on October 5th at 2:00pm. The gallery will be open for appreciation free of charge.

Co-founded in 1995 by Saint Mary’s Center for Environmental Literacy director Pamela Michael and former US Poet Laureate/Saint Mary’s alumnus Robert Hass, River of Words is described on the SMC website as a “free, annual international poetry and art contest for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade.” It boasts the title of largest children’s art collection in the world, and selected works are exhibited annually at SMC. Last year, entries poured in from 35 different States, and 17 other countries. Grand prize winners are honored at the annual Youth Creativity Awards, on Saint Mary’s campus, and prints of their artwork are made available for purchase.

One of the many things that makes this gallery unique is the group of individuals who make it possible — the Art Gallery Team. This year’s team is a group of just 5 Saint Mary’s students, all of whom are in charge of planning, marketing, and installing the exhibit. One of these students is John Hayes, a senior at SMC, who enrolled in the class in hopes to view art from a new perspective. “Last semester, I had one of my photographs put in the [Saint Mary’s] art museum … I thought it would be fun to see the other side of things,” said Hayes, “Like where the decisions are made — what goes on the walls, in what format they go on the walls, what kind of material is chosen to put things on, et cetera.” Hayes also emphasized the importance of art exhibitions, stating that they are the number one way the public encounters art. “Going to a gallery or museum is an experience you can’t really get anywhere else,” Hayes said, “and it’s fun seeing how that experience is created for people.”

During the past few weeks, these 5 students have been hard at work planning even the finest details of the exhibit — from the placement of each piece to which refreshments will be served at the reception — as well as creating publicity for the event, and physically installing the artwork. According to Hayes, once they are finished with everything, they will attend the reception, “and begin planning the next exhibit that follows that one.” There are a total of four exhibitions put on by the Art Gallery Team, and each of these will be on display in the Art Department for about a month at a time, all throughout this fall semester.

A collaborative effort between Saint Mary’s College students and staff, the SMC art department, and a number of children from around the globe, this year’s River of Words art and poetry exhibition will be open for enjoyment during normal daytime hours.

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