Air brushing an emphasis for MHS artists

As Marion High School art teacher Jim Versch takes his students to various exhibits and competitions throughout the year, one thing is evident.

When he looks at the artwork of other students, he can determine the favorite medium of their art teacher.

“Probably my favorite medium, and it carries over to the kids, we do a lot of airbrushing,” Versch said.

“And because I’m pushing it, we’re doing a lot of stuff with computers, too.”

But that doesn’t stop him from offering a varied art curriculum at the high school level.

The art program at MHS includes traditional arts, also called Arts Foundation, for freshmen and sophomores; advanced courses, two-dimensional and three-dimensional art, for sophomores and juniors; and Art Projects, a course for seniors who plan to go on in some area of art in college.

“So that’s the traditional side,” Versch said.

“In the computer side, the electronics side, I teach a Web-page design class. I teach a computer-arts graphic course, which is doing computer art. And I also teach a traditional photography class-that’s black and white photography, which is a counter-part to digital photography.”

Computers and art intermingle with a class Versch started this year called Gen-Y, which teaches basic computer knowledge and is a steppingstone to one more advanced-level class, Gen-Z.

“I teach Gen-Y, and I also teach a traditional art course through ITV, which is the Interactive Television Network,” Versch said.

Every other day, for 90 minutes, about 24 art students from Marion, Peabody, Hillsboro, Herington and Centre work with Versch on computers and focus on Web design and PowerPoint.

“I have a camera and a set of monitors set up in my room, and we interact back and forth through the television,” Versch said.

“What’s neat about Gen-Y, if you graduate from Gen-Y, you become Gen-Z students.”

Gen-Z students, from all five schools, meet about once a month.

These students have access to a bulletin board, which lists technology positions teachers need help with. They set up a time and meet with the teacher and are paid for their efforts.

“It’s almost like a part-time job,” Versch said.

“An example is-an elementary teacher was trying to get some pictures, news and lesson plans out on the Internet, and so she contacted a Gen-Z student, and they created a Web page.”

Art students have a variety of outlets to display their creations at the school, in the community and at shows and exhibitions during the school year.

Students’ on-going artwork, their current projects, are showcased outside the door to the art room. Versch will choose additional artwork for display cabinets outside the school office and library.

“The cream of the crop, the ones that try the hardest, those go in those display cases, and about every other week, we change things,” Versch said.

Inside the library are areas on top of bookcases for sculpture presentations.

A prime location to display paintings, drawings and photographs in the community is at the central office of the board of education. Versch said he sees this as an opportunity to reach people who come to the board meetings.

Other venues to exhibit and participate in competitions are predominantly during the second half of the school year, which give the students ample time to work on their projects prior to the events.

The students at MHS have the option to attend or participate in several exhibits and competitions, including the following:

Community Service Art Project-March 2, at the Parents Advisory Council Carnival at MES, 10 MHS art students painted faces for kids at the carnival to raise money for PAC activities;

Central Kansas Art Educators Exhibit-March 2 to March 24, at McPherson College, Versch has four of his own air-brush paintings on display;

Gerry Neustrom Young Artist Challenge-March 17 to April 7, at Salina Central Mall, senior Jeff Moody was accepted for this juried show with his pencil-drawing entry titled “Who’s playing God”;

Fine Arts Day-March 15, at Marion Elementary School, high school art students will demonstrate various techniques and mediums including airbrush, clay, computer art and digital photography;

20th Century Club-April 1, at Marion Presbyterian Church, MHS art and forensic students will participate in the club program for the evening;

Cottonwood Valley League Art Show-April 15, at Herington, students from Marion, Herington, Chase County, Wichita Trinity, Council Grove and Sacred Heart will be judged on artwork in different categories and attend workshops;

Spring Art Show and Vocal Pops Concert-May 7, at the Marion City Building, all MHS art students will display work, which will include about 150 to 200 pieces from the school year;

Annual Senior Show-May 6 to May 10, at Butler County Community College, artwork from MHS and BCCC seniors will be on display.

The CVL league show is hosted by a different school each year and next year it will be held in Marion.

“We’ve always made the rule that the kids that go are the ones you can take entries for,” Versch said.

“It’s not just a show, there are workshops, and you get to know some of the kids at other schools.”

Versch said the artwork is judged by the students, teachers and judges, but they try to stay away from formal awards.

“We don’t want this to be a real die-hard competition,” he said. “We want this to be fun and an awareness of what’s going on.”

League art shows are also not about competition but can be used as an avenue to learn, Versch said.

“Every year when we go to the league art show, kids are amazed by some of the work they see there,” he said. “It does two things, it really motivates them to want to improve, and they also get new ideas.”

Two additional outlets for artwork display are a school calendar and the school Web site.

“Every year we put artwork in our school calendar, and it’s kind of an honor to be chosen to be in it,” Versch said.

Something new on tap for this school year was an art and photo gallery on the school Web site at, Versch said.

About 200 pieces of work from Centre and Marion students are on the site, which is designed to highlight the seniors’ work.

“That’s been a real hit,” he said. “Not only are there pictures, but it discusses what it’s all about.”

Versch has many goals for his art program, three of which are the following:

To appreciate the world of art-to achieve an understanding of technique and medium, and through all of that, to have a good understanding of art history;

To change with the times-to see that art work and techniques are constantly evolving and to adapt to the global and technical changes in the world today;

To excel-to have an opportunity to shine, which is especially true for students who don’t excel in other areas like sports or scholastics.

“I’ve had a lot of students that the other teachers can’t believe they’re doing well in my course,” Versch said.

“But this is allowing them to excel in an area they feel comfortable in, and they feel successful and good about themselves through art.”

One future plan for the art program is to display MHS artwork on the local cable channel, Versch said.

“We’re hoping to be on Channel 22 by March 15.”

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