BEMIDJI -- The Watermark Art Center is currently exhibiting the work of Bemidji’s young Rembrandts, Picassos, Frida Kahlos and Da Vincis.

More than 100 works of art made by Bemidji Middle School art students are now displayed at the Watermark gallery as a part of the annual Middle School Art Show featuring the work of local young artists.

Students employed a variety of mediums in their work. Artworks range from wood-burned creations to large sculptures of ocean freighters to hyper-realistic ink, pencil, and crayon drawings to abstract acrylic paintings.

Middle schooler Tate Olson painted and fashioned a robot hand sculpture out of cardboard and paint. Liam Larson carved a wood-burned image of a hallway. Ronic Samuelson showed an upside-down forest world through a camera lens.

A sculpture by middle schooler Tate Olson is showcased at the annual Middle School Art Show on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Watermark Art Center. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
A sculpture by middle schooler Tate Olson is showcased at the annual Middle School Art Show on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Watermark Art Center. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

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The show opened Friday, June 4, and will be available for viewing at Watermark until Friday, June 25 in the Lakeview Gallery and Education Studio Gallery.

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Selecting the pieces to hang at the center, Bemidji Middle School Art Teacher Molly Wiste said she looked for both developing personal style and technical skills.

Ahead of the gallery show, Wiste explained that student art was first exhibited in a winter art show or spring art show, depending on the semester.

“We tried to select the best pieces from those shows,” Wiste said. “The students that have great technical skill, but also students that make art that's really personal, because sometimes students can have great technical skill, but they're copying someone else's style. That's fine when you're learning, but it's really cool how some artists already started to develop their own style, even in middle school. So, I both looked for technical skill and them developing their own style.”

Visitors peruse the gallery during the annual Middle School Art Show on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Watermark Art Center.  (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
Visitors peruse the gallery during the annual Middle School Art Show on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Watermark Art Center. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Wiste said between 110 and 120 pieces of art are on display, representing more than 90 student artists, as some pupils contributed more than one piece.

The event not only exposes middle school students to what being a professional artist could be like by having their work hung alongside well-known regional artists, but it exposes more students to the local art center itself, perhaps opening their eyes to the center as a public resource.

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“The last time we (had the Middle School Art show) most of (the students) came through the gallery, which is cool because you know there's a lot of families that maybe wouldn't visit the art gallery otherwise,” Wiste said. “They get in there and they get to see the other art, too. They're usually so proud because I tell them what a big deal it is to have art in a gallery.”

This is not the only taste of public viewing Wiste’s class got this year -- as her class also has a collaborative art piece on display along the Bemidji Sculpture Walk.

More than 100 works by Bemidji Middle School student artists were on display during the annual Middle School Art Show on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Watermark Art Center.  (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
More than 100 works by Bemidji Middle School student artists were on display during the annual Middle School Art Show on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Watermark Art Center. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

“(Wiste) does an amazing job teaching her students in creating art from a wide variety of mediums. She collects work throughout the school year and, despite the challenges of teaching during a pandemic, (online, in person, and a hybrid of both) she collected over 100 works from students this year,” Jill Oakes, Art Education Program Director at Watermark, said of the exhibit.

Watermark Art Center is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and located at 505 Bemidji Ave. Masks are encouraged while visiting the exhibit.