At the Creative Arts Center in Burbank, program coordinator Carol Finkle has watched all sorts of art pass through her gallery. She's an artist herself, but little impresses her more than the avalanche of work that arrives every year with the Youth Arts Expo.
Finkle remembered an intricate drawing by a student last year of the doomed Titanic, depicting the vessel in three stages of decline. "It was excellent," Finkle recalled. "It almost looked like a photograph." Then there was that still-life drawing of potatoes in a bottle by a young schoolgirl.
More than 140 works of painting, drawing, photography, weaving and pottery will be on display at this year's event, which opens Sunday and marks the expo's 10th consecutive year of operation. All of the pieces were created by students of Burbank public schools, from elementary to high school.
"I have a beautiful drawing of Beethoven drawn by a fourth-grade boy that's going to be in the show this year," Finkle said. "It's amazing." She also talked excitedly of a painting of outer space by a fourth-grade girl: "It will be fun to watch her over the years as she progresses."
The two top high school students will be awarded scholarships to a summer class--called "Saturday High" and worth about $300--at the Art Center in Pasadena. And 10 teachers with the most accomplished art students will each receive gift certificates totaling $50 for class art supplies.
The longtime sponsors of the expo are the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department and the Fine Arts Federation of Burbank, which has 250 members.
Just taking part in the exhibition, with young students acting as either participants or spectators, offers some valuable dividends, Finkle said.
"It's a way of gaining self-esteem through recognition of something they've put some effort into," explained Finkle, who added that each of the 1,018 elementary-school entrants will be given a certificate acknowledging their participation. "I think that's a way to encourage them to keep trying. Ideally I'd love to hang all their work.
"When the elementary students come and see what the middle school and high school students can do, it encourages them to stick with the efforts necessary to become good at anything."
The annual art expo "is probably more important now than ever" to encourage achievement in art, said Finkle, who has been the center's program coordinator for two years. "That's one place where schools have been cut."
The Luther Burbank Middle School has no art teacher at all, she added. "The elementary teachers haven't been hit by it as much as those in secondary schools."
But Finkle has now recognized that those behind future youth expos will have their own challenges. Student artists are moving into a new era, and one where the old materials won't always be up to the job.
Already this year, students are more sophisticated with such tools as airbrushes, and the annual event has attracted its first work of computer graphics.
"That's the wave of the future," Finkle said. "We're going to have to become more sophisticated with how that's done, because the kids are already comfortable with it."
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WHERE AND WHEN
What: 10th annual Youth Arts Expo.
Location: Creative Arts Center, George Izay Park, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank.
Hours: Opening reception, 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Regular hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. Ends March 23.
Call: (818) 953-8763.