Charles King, a SeaGate Centre employee, strolls past some of the abstract paintings produced by the Toledo School for the Arts. The convention center's walls have been transformed into a gallery.
Along the winding, barren corridors of SeaGate Centre, there was a need for scenery more vivid than restroom signs and room numbers.
"We have a lot of walls - and they're really stark," James Donnelly, the center's president and chief executive officer, said.
So to spruce the place up, officials decided to turn the convention center's walls into gallery space for some of the city's youngest artists.
The center commissioned students from the Toledo School for the Arts to create 20 abstract paintings, each measuring four feet by four feet.
Jessica Garrison, an 8th grader, uses acrylic paint to make her stylized drawing of an eagle during art class.
The pieces, most of which were done with acrylic paints on canvas, have been hanging near the building's entrance and on its second floor for the last three weeks.
In exchange for the free artwork, the center gave the school $3,500 in art supplies, not to mention the opportunity for its students to share their work with hundreds of thousands of convention center visitors, said David Saygers, the school's artistic director.
In one picture, a jumble of painted squares in many shades of brown lie layered on the canvas like piled autumn leaves. In another, what could be waves of shiny red liquid glass stretch before the backdrop of a hazy purple galaxy of stars.
Thirty-five students in grades six through 12 made the paintings, Mr. Saygers said.
Rachel Arvanitis gets some help from visual arts teacher Liz Hayes during her class at the Toledo School for the Arts. Works by the students are being displayed at SeaGate Centre.
One of them, Samantha Gomez, 17, a senior from North Toledo whose primary interest is photography, said the abstract piece she painted was modeled upon the viewfinder of a camera, and was the first serious painting she has finished.
"I was so happy that somebody trusted beginning painters like myself to come up with something great that they could use," she said.
The works are to stay on the center's walls for a year, until the school's students create another art exhibit for display in the building next fall.
Dave Glerke, the school's director of development, said the convention center project has been an outstanding learning experience for the young artists.
"There's a whole different approach to art by a student artist if they know that the art is going to be seen by thousands of people, besides just their peers," Mr. Glerke said.
"It helps to bring the standards of our artists up, and that's frankly why we exist."
Mr. Donnelly said convention center staff members approached the charter school about doing the artwork because they had heard its students were very skilled, and liked the idea of showcasing local talent to the 750,000 or so visitors expected at the convention center in a year.
The pictures already have been attracting attention.
"We're getting so many people's comments," Mr. Donnelly said.
Raymond Sanders, 40, of North Toledo, paused and critiqued the students' work yesterday afternoon as he took a break from packing up a convention exhibit.
"It looks really detailed," Mr. Sanders remarked. "Like someone has been thinking."
The young artists finished the paintings in May, after spending four to five months on the project as they fit it in with other art class work, Mr. Saygers said.
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