Art in the Park's Young Collector's Island fosters art appreciation in children

Sunday, June 2, 2013 | 6:00 p.m. CDT; updated 8:31 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 3, 2013
Artists Kris and Al Clement were selling things from wine goblets to tea pots to knitting bowls at their booth, Clement Clayworks, as part of the Art in the Park festival on Sunday at Stephens Lake Park. They throw 12 tons of clay a year to make enough pieces to sell at the 30 or so art shows they attend throughout the year around the country. Children who visited the "Young Collectors Tent" were allowed to chose a small piece of art and then meet the artist who made it.

COLUMBIA — Eight-year-old Isabel Kitchel crossed the Stephens Lake Park bridge to the Island Shelter with a mission in mind. She was ready to find some art.

Isabel Kitchel attended the 55th annual Columbia Art League's Art in the Park at Stephens Lake Park with her parents, Tracy and Laura Kitchel, and younger sister Violet, 2, on Sunday. The Island Shelter is host to her favorite Art in the Park activity: the Young Collector's Island.

The Young Collector's Island was an area for children ages 5 to 14 to view and select a piece of art donated by one of the artists in the festival, Young Collector's Island chairwoman Tracy Eichhorn said. A total of 476 children visited this weekendThe Columbia Art League was hoping to host 600 children, but the weather proved to be a challenge, she said.

Five dollars gave a child access to the area, where a volunteer accompanied them as they looked at the art. Parents waited outside until their child was finished.

"We want this to be strictly the kids' choice," Eichhorn said. "We want them to develop an eye for what they like."

The goal was to cultivate an appreciation for art in young people. Artists need supporters so they can continue creating beautiful things, Eichhorn said. Otherwise events like the Art in the Park would not be possible.

"It's important to get the kids started early," Eichhorn said. "All children are artists anyway."

This is the second year Isabel has gone to the Young Collector's Island, which is in its third year. She said it is difficult to decide on the piece she would like to take home.

"I walked around and found some cool plates and bowls," Isabel said. "They were so cool I just couldn't decide."

Eventually she decided on a small black plate, which she said would go well with the plate she got last year.

"It reminds me of nature and how I like to make art like clay and painting," Isabel  said. "It makes me feel like I want to make more art when I get home."

Isabel's parents smiled at their daughter's excitement for her new piece of art. They've been coming to the festival for the past three years.

"Every year we see new things, and we love that we can take our kids," Laura Kitchel said.

The Young Collector's Island is where the family discovered the Columbia Art League's Summer Art Camp last year, Tracy Kitchel said. This year Isabel chose to attend art camp over swimming lessons, he said. Isabel will be learning more about 3-D art at camp this year, which she said she is excited about because it will be new to her.

Isabel's newest art acquisition was made by artist Rebecca Grant. The Kitchel family visited Grant's booth to thank her.

"I'm so glad you like it, and I hope you can use it," Grant told Isabel.

Grant is from Alton, Ill., and makes porcelain pottery for display and everyday use. She grew up around many artistic people, including her stepmother, a quilter, she said.

"She said just because it is beautiful doesn't mean you shouldn't use it," Grant said.

Grant is one of many artists who donated to the Young Collector's Island. Ninety-nine percent of artists participating in the festival donate small pieces to the Young Collector's Island, Eichhorn said.

"I think it's important to support art in all its forms in children," Grant said. "It fires up their imaginations and it helps your life in general."

Seeing a young artist like Isabel made Grant feel good.

"It tells me I'm doing the right things with my career," Grant said.

The proceeds from the children's entry fees will help the Columbia Art League fund educational programs to increase art awareness. The league funds programs at Title I Preschool, Lee Elementary School, Douglass High School, Woodhaven, Adventure Club at MU and the Daniel Boone Regional Library.

Last year, 438 children visited the Young Collector's Island. There were so many children that volunteers had to seek out more art donations, Eichhorn said. This year, the Columbia Art League began a program to pay artists $5 for pieces of art in addition to what they donated. However, more than 80 percent of the art the children take home is donated, Eichhorn said.

This early exposure to art has inspired Isabel to become an artist later in life.

"I want to be an artist when I grow up because I like how it makes me feel," Isabel said. "I just can't explain it."

Supervising editor is Katie Moritz.

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