SAN ANTONIO — The students in Linda Whitman's art class are already accomplished artists.
Seventh-grader Hailey Kerns has a page of her artwork on the Deviant Art website. Sixth-grader Madison Blocker won a $50 savings bond at a Center State Bank show. They and their classmates at St. Anthony Catholic School display their artwork in a half-dozen community art shows that Whitman organizes each year — including an exhibit this month at the Pastoral Center at the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
"Being in an art show has taught me that if I work hard, I can get my art out to the public," said Davetta Wozniak, an eighth-grader who has done everything from stained glass works to rose paintings in Whitman's class.
In addition to teaching her students about art techniques, Whitman shows them how to prepare and present their works for art shows. "While we're making art in the classroom, kids will show me their work and say, 'Is this good enough for a show?' " she said.
"It makes the kids feel successful and helps their self-esteem."
The exhibits appear at various venues: the diocese center, the Hugh Embry Branch Library and Center State Bank in Dade City, as well as the Pasco County Fair and the Spotlight on Talent competition. Each child who is exhibiting work gets a personalized announcement to share with family and friends.
"It makes me happy that people can see my artwork," said third-grader Christopher Lebron.
"I liked getting ready for the show just as much as I did creating the art," added third-grader Michael Poinor. "Mrs. Whitman gave me ideas on how to describe my art and what it's about, how to show it to people."
Whitman, who mats and prepares title and artist cards for exhibited artworks, said it's not just Mom and Dad who appreciate the students' handiwork.
"Sometimes people who see the exhibits make offers to buy it," she said. "I then serve as the go-between the student and the buyer."
Whitman, a professional artist and chairperson of the annual student art exhibit at the Florida State Fair, said she enjoys giving her students the same opportunity to display their work. And a number of her students are expressing an interest in artistic careers.
Third-grader Nicolas Patrias would like to be a book illustrator. Third-grader Hannah Fox would like to be a painter and charcoal artist. Sixth-grader Tiara Perez and seventh-grader Luke Telese both want to be sketch artists. Fifth-grader Sean Curtis said he might want to draw professionally. And although she doesn't want to be a professional artist, fifth-grader Chloe Coddington believes that the creative processes and marketing techniques she learned in Whitman's class will help her reach her own artistic goal: to become a novelist.
"When people see my art," said fifth-grader Sydni Parrish, "it makes me want to be an artist more."