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Jeffco Visual Arts Exhibit History:  A Retrospective

by Gene Youngman

Jefferson County Schools Art Department was just beginning to establish itself as a leader in the art education community in Colorado when I was hired in 1973. Larry Schultz was the driving force and coordinator of the Jeffco Art Dept., which became a family of outstanding artists/teachers.  

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The first county-wide art show was held as an outside sidewalk show in the spring of 1971 at          the former Lakeside Mall Shopping Center.   The artwork was hung by the teachers on Friday afternoon, juried early on Saturday morning and awards were announced to the public in the late morning, then the artwork was removed by the teachers in the afternoon.  A few years later the Junior / Senior High School Art Show moved indoors to the former Westland Shopping Center in Lakewood.  Moving indoors allowed the art show to remain in place for a week, weekend through weekend.  Outside of the county judges were hired to juror the artwork and award winners at all levels.

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In the Spring of 1977 the first Junior / Senior High School Art Show opened at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities which opened the previous year in 1976.  The move to the Arvada Center allowed for the Art Show to grow in size including more entries from each school and added several new categories.  Pomona High School Art Teacher Eleanore Huntley became chairperson of the show when it moved to the Arvada Center.

My first art teaching job was at Hackberry Hill Elementary in Arvada, teaching art

K -6 grades.  In the fall of 1978, I moved to Golden High School and replaced

art teacher Millie Morgan who retired after 27 years teaching. My first year of

teaching at Golden allowed for me to begin participating in the

Junior / Senior High School Art Show.  I had eight students enter artwork,

of which six were selected to be displayed.  That was the beginning of my long run

with the art show that lasted until I retired in May 2003.

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The Jeffco Junior / Senior High School Art Show was unique among county student art shows.  First because of the size of the show displaying over 500 pieces of student artwork all of it framed.  Second because the show was co-hosted by the Arvada Center which allow for the show to hang for six weeks in a professional gallery, which was unheard of by other school districts.  The Jeffco Show became a showcase of student artwork, college students and professors from in and out of state visited the show annually along with school groups from around the area.  Tour groups from neighboring states scheduled visits to view the show as part of the annual spring tours.  


In the fall of 1979 Eleanore Huntly asked me to be chairperson of the awards and develop a presentation for the awards, a lot like the Academy of Awards Ceremony.  A small group of art teachers assisted me in gathering awards in the form of cash, gift certificates, merchandise and scholarships.  There were eleven categories in each level, with First Place, Second Place, Third Place, three to four Honorable Mentions, several special awards, the judges award and the Best of Show.  The art show would consist of 500 to 550 pieces of artwork selected from about 1100 to 1300 pieces submitted from each teacher in each Junior and Senior High School level in the county.  


As the number of Junior and Senior High Art Schools in Jeffco grew, so did the Arvada Center.  In 1992 the Arvada Center underwent a major expansion, which relocated and enlarged the art gallery in size, this allowed for the Jeffco Show to grow in size as well.  With the addition of more schools and students, more artwork was allowed from each school to be submitted for consideration to be displayed along with the addition of computer graphics and computer photography.

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The process at that time was as follows; teachers would select their best artwork from their students and submit 20 pieces of artwork per teacher.  Artwork was delivered to the Arvada Center on a Friday afternoon after school sometimes in a spring rain / snowstorm.  Teachers would divide their student’s artwork into categories on the floor of the gallery.  Then on Saturday morning, five to six judges from the art community outside of Jeffco, a team of teacher helpers, and several student helpers would go through all of the artwork, with the judges selecting the pieces to be displayed and selecting the award winners.  At the end of the day all of the first-place winners would be brought together to select the Best of Show by the judges.  This would take some time as the judges each had their favorites and negotiations would continue until one piece of artwork was selected as the Best of Show.  Then the work really began, every piece of artwork was recorded as being either selected or rejected for display and award winners were moved to a staging area for photographing.  The following day all of the award winners were photographed.  On Monday afternoon the teachers returned to pick up an artwork that was rejected from display.  That was followed by the arranging of the artwork by a team of teachers who looked for color trends, subject trends or styles.  Jewelry cases were put in place and ready for display.  On Wednesday a large team of art teachers from many of the schools as well as some volunteers, student teachers and college students arrive to “hang” the show.  This team worked for two days to hang and arrange all of the artwork.  Each piece of artwork was showcased to show off its excellence.  Depending on the year there were usually anywhere from 500 to 550 pieces of artwork displayed in the lower, upper and theater galleries at the Arvada Center.

On the opening night, students and their parents were invited to attend this showcase of the best student artwork in Jefferson County Schools.  Refreshments were served in the Galleries. There was an Awards Presentation in the Arvada Center Main Stage Theater.  During the Awards Presentation students would sit in the front of the theater and be invited on stage to receive their awards when their names were called.  At the same time as the student’s name was announced a slide of their artwork would appear on the large screen at the back of the stage.  Prizes were given to all place winners, honorable mentions and special awards.  Representatives from several colleges, universities and art schools were in attendance and would announce scholarship winners.  

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In 2000 the Junior High / Middle Schools moved their portion of the Jeffco Art Show to the newly opened Lakewood Cultural Arts Center and renamed their show Jeffco Middle Schools Art Show.


Eleanore Huntley retired from Standley Lake High School and the Jeffco Art Show in 1998, and I assumed her position as chairperson until my retirement in 2003.  Nicole Brown, D’Evelyn High School and Susan Lange, Conifer High School took over the Award Presentation.  When I retired Andy Yutzy Wheat Ridge High School took over as the show chairperson in 2003.  There were many, many art teachers who worked on the Jeffco Art Show over the years, and I would not be able to name every one of them nor would I want to miss anyone.  Thanks to all of the amazing art teachers and art students who made the Jeffco Art Show a success. 


Respectfully Submitted

Gene Youngmann

Former Art Teacher Golden High School, 1978-2003

Former Art Teacher Hackberry Hill Elementary, Arvada, 1973-1978

Former Co-Chairperson of the Jeffco Art Show, at the Arvada Center, 1979-2003

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