Blooming Artists Project Brings Professionals and Students Together

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Jeane Vogel meets with Divine Robinson, a fourth grader at Washington Elementary, on interview night. - COURTESY OF THE BLOOMING ARTISTS PROJECT
  • COURTESY OF THE BLOOMING ARTISTS PROJECT
  • Jeane Vogel meets with Divine Robinson, a fourth grader at Washington Elementary, on interview night.

Students often have a wide and wild imagination — and a local mentorship project is giving them the chance to inspire a professional with that imagination.

The St. Louis Blooming Artists Project pairs students from grades three through twelve with a professional working in the art field to learn, create and inspire. This will be the project’s fourth year. Sponsored by the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis, Artmart and the Greater St. Louis Art Association, it was created by art teacher Marilyn Callahan in 2013.

“She wanted to create something that was an opportunity for children in St. Louis school districts to have a mentorship project and show that their ideas and their inspirations had the ability and possibility of inspiring adult professional master artists,” says co-director Alex Johnmeyer, who came into the program as a professional before taking on the directorship.

Students are nominated by teachers to be a part of the project early in the year. These students may be thinking about a career in art, or have a love of creation. After the students are selected, a meeting is held with the "master artists" to see who fits best with each student.

In February, the master artist and student pairs meet for the first time at “interview night” at Artmart. There, the students present their work to the artists, talk about how it came together and what inspired them to create it. It is then up to the master artist to create something inspired by the student’s original work. How involved a student gets in the process is up to them.

The master artists are given two months to create the companion pieces.

The project helps the students in their development, both artistically and professionally, Johnmeyer says.

“I’m hoping that these kids realize that art is an achievable goal and that they’ll apply to art school and they’ll have this as something they can show,” Johnmeyer says.

All of the work will come full circle when the students’ work is matted and framed on the walls of 1900 Park Creative Space and Gallery (1711 Park Avenue) in Lafayette Square. Their works will be hung adjacent to their master artist’s work.

“The happiness on their faces cannot be duplicated in that process,” Johnmeyer says.

Mixed media jewelry artist Allison Norfleet Bruenger meets with her student, Rose Houghton, at interview night. Houghton is a twelfth grader from Ritenour High School. - COURTESY OF THE BLOOMING ARTISTS PROJECT
  • COURTESY OF THE BLOOMING ARTISTS PROJECT
  • Mixed media jewelry artist Allison Norfleet Bruenger meets with her student, Rose Houghton, at interview night. Houghton is a twelfth grader from Ritenour High School.

The goal of the project is to benefit the students, and Johnmeyer says seeing their talent on full display and seeing how creative they are is something she always cherishes.

“I don’t even know if I was that good whenever I was sixteen or seventeen years old,” Johnmeyer says. “I think I was pretty good, but some of these kids are amazing.”

The opening reception for master artists and students will be held tomorrow, May 12, at 6 p.m. The exhibition will be open until the end of May. The reception is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Blooming Artists Project website.

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