CASPER, Wyo. — The words “inspiration and imagination” are how Evanston High School sophomore Sydney Jordan summarized the annual showcase of more than 5,000 artworks from Wyoming high school students.
Jordan pointed to a watercolor tree framed by names of people killed in public acts of violence. Inside the bare, dark trunk were words: Boston Marathon, Sandy Hook, Aurora shooting, Virginia Tech. The roots formed words: deceit, hatred, greed.
But the other side of the tree blossomed in pink from roots that spelled words including "love," "compassion" and "hope."
“Everyone can relate to it,” Jordan said, “and it’s really heartwarming and touching.”
While Jordan captured a few artworks with her cellphone camera Friday at the Wyoming State High School Art Symposium in the Casper Events Center, she said she hopes people will see her artwork and become inspired.
Just walking into the show, one immediately spots artworks created with paper plates, a taxidermy bear, newspapers, bubble wrap and a football -- to name a few of the less-traditional materials.
Students also expressed creativity in the classic mediums, from photography to pottery.
Alex Eisele covered a canvas in red at the Sheridan College booth Friday morning. The Big Horn High School senior helped recruit students for the college where she also takes classes. She was a finalist to take home a scholarship for her artwork and had already won a major award for one of her pieces.
“Passion” is what Ricki Klages, head of the University of Wyoming Art Department, said she’s looking for when considering scholarships.
Klages said she can spot that passion immediately in work that stands out because it offers different points of view, thoughtfulness, a great level of skill or something else that just gives it that extra spark.
Art teachers who judge the show said they look for qualities including good composition, something that draws them in and thought-provoking images.
“To me, I (look for) things that touch my heart,” Riverton High School teacher Marianne Vinich said. "I just hear a voice inside of it."
Wyoming first lady Carol Mead also toured the show before giving a presentation. She and her husband, Gov. Matt Mead, started a tradition of choosing artwork from the symposium to display in their residence for a year.
“We look forward to it each year,” Carol Mead said. “The talent is incredible.”
Other people can also leave with artwork. Professional art and other prizes are raffled for student scholarships. A silent auction of professional artwork benefits the scholarship fund and the symposium, according to a media release from the Wyoming Secondary Art Educators organization, which hosts the annual event.
Art products also are on display by national and local vendors.
The event includes artwork from high school teachers who donate pieces for auction.
A companion exhibition of 10 to 15 selected student artworks called “3-Dimensional Artistic Discovery" also is part of this year’s event.
For students, the symposium is a chance to see the artwork staged publicly, check out other works and meet more than 1,500 artists from across Wyoming.
“It’s interesting to see peoples’ different perspectives," Douglas High School student Jason Kain said, "from the abstract to the realistic.”