Students show their talent at ArtFest

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 17, 2015

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Like a football team gearing up for the big state final, art students at Grosse Pointe South are getting ready for their own culminating moment — ArtFest 2015.


In the days leading up to the artistic showcase, there’s a flurry of activity in the art wing, with Grosse Pointe South art students and their instructors hard at work putting those last-minute touches on their pieces.


“It’s a big deal,” said Tom Szmrecsanyi, one of the high school art teachers. “This is something that sets us apart from other schools.


“Students get excited about it because they’re showing their work to their immediate peers here at school, as well as the community,” he said. “The students really do work year-round for this show. They get excited. They know it’s coming.”


He said the energy level among the students ramps up as it draws near.


“It’s a centerpiece,” Szmrecsanyi said. “It’s one of the reasons students do what they do.”


He said most other high schools don’t host a large annual art festival where students, their families and the community stop by to enjoy the event.


This year’s ArtFest will run from March 25-28. The exhibition will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, as well as 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Opening night will be Thursday from 7-9 p.m. with awards at 8 p.m.


Szmrecsanyi and art teacher Kit Aro are co-chairs of the school’s art department. Szmrecsanyi, Aro and art teacher Micki Buksar Cecil have been getting their students ready for the show.


While students are putting those finishing touches on their pieces, preparation for the show is an all-year endeavor as students create different pieces in mediums including paint, metals, photography, ceramics and more.


Every year, hundreds of students take part in the festival. Seniors receive special attention as they wind up their careers at South.


There is a great deal to see at the show.


“It shows how big the art program is here,” senior Kellie Wujcik said.


It’s a large program that attracts students of all backgrounds. Senior Elizabeth Langenburg said she spends much of her day in science courses. When she’s in her art classes, she gets to spend time with more classmates.


The seniors have the freedom to push their artwork as far as it can go, students said.


“We, as seniors, get to be able to pick which work we put in, and we can put in more than others,” senior Courtney Geist said.


“It’s more work, but at the same time, it’s more freedom,” senior Asha Sanford said of being a senior in the showcase.


Some have plans to study art after high school, including Sanford, who has her sights set on the College for Creative Studies or Savannah College of Art and Design, and Geist, who is looking to attend the University of Michigan’s art and design program. Others plan to study other fields but continue with art as a hobby.


While they are matting their artwork and preparing for the show, there is time for some other last-minute preparation.


“It’s good to get (a) critique before you put a piece in and make sure it’s your best work,” Sanford said.


“It is really hard getting ready because it has to be show-ready,” senior Maren Prophit said.


Even though parents, grandparents and others get excited about coming to the show, it gives the students an opportunity to show their work to the entire community.


“It’s a chance for us to show what we’ve been doing,” senior Ben MacKethan said.


“A lot of students don’t know what type of work we do until they actually see it,” Geist said. 


  The art students like to see the work of their peers, too.


“It’s really interesting to see what the other classes are doing,” Prophit said.