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Teen artists take turn in public eye

Later this month, the Nicholson Gallery in Brooksville will host a unique showing of original art.

What makes it unique: None of the 20 works was created by a professional. Rather, each piece that will hang on the walls for eight weeks will carry the name of a student from Hernando High School.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for these kids to get a taste of what the art world is truly like," said Hernando High art teacher Roxanne Campbell. "It's a chance for them to get the kind of exposure and a sense of accomplishment that few artists ever get to enjoy."

The exhibit, which opens to the public March 25, will feature works chosen by locally raised artist Michael Nicholson, whose father has owned and operated the gallery on Horse Lake Road in Brooksville since 1997. Nicholson, a Hernando High graduate and son of School Board member Sandra Nicholson, was first approached by Campbell last fall.

"I was looking for a way to reward some of my students for their hard work and talent, so I spoke with Sandra Nicholson about the possibility of having a few pieces on display at the gallery," Campbell said. "I had no idea that we'd get an invitation to have a whole exhibit."

Campbell came up the idea of having her art students create paintings reflecting the show's theme, "In the style of an artist." The students were allowed free rein to use any medium they wished as long as it kept in the style of a known artist.

"I felt that would spark some creativity that they may not have imagined before," she said. Though the event was originally intended to include just advanced students, Campbell opened it to any art student.

Though the exhibit was limited to 20 pieces, Campbell soon found that students had created multiple works to better their chances of being chosen.

"It was even a little bit competitive," Campbell said. "Not that art should ever be competitive, but some of these kids are going on to careers where they'll be expected to produce. I think it helped some of them get more motivated."

Hernando High junior Chelsea Salgado said that her admiration of painter Georgia O'Keeffe inspired her to create a color oil abstract in the artist's style.

"I don't normally paint like this, but I really got into the whole concept of making brilliant colors and contrasts," said Salgado, 18. "It was fun to work on, and it gave me an opportunity to see how close I could get to her style of painting."

Jim Stevens, a senior who plans to study computer animation and design in college, took ideas he had seen in the abstract etchings of M.C. Escher and applied them to a portrait called Twins. Using classmates as models, he sketched faces over a background of optical effects.

"I tried to get as close to (Escher's) style as I could get, but still make it mostly mine," he said.

Though several of Campbell's students have had their work displayed in public places, including the Brooksville City Museum and the county school board office, the opportunity to have their art shown in a private gallery is something few expected would ever happen.

"It's pretty cool to get recognition for something you've worked hard on," Stevens said. "Not that it's going to make anybody in here famous, but it's something impressive you can add to your resume."

Campbell concurred. None of her students are planning to paint for a living, but several plan to explore careers in graphic arts and design. The experience of creating for the gallery exhibit has been a valuable one.

"It's brought a lot of self-esteem to some kids who may not have considered their talent worthy," Campbell said. "Art is something very personal to some of the kids. What they put on the canvas or board is part of themselves. I'm glad that people in the community will have a chance to see that."

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