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Young Artist Showcase returns in March

Several Muhlenberg County students will once more have their artwork exhibited at Thistle Cottage this spring.

The Young Artist Showcase, which includes work by elementary and middle school students across the county, will be on display throughout the month of March.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Muhlenberg Arts Council in conjunction with Muhlenberg County Public Libraries.

The art show is typically held every spring, but it has been on hold for the past couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues. Thistle Cottage closed to the public in mid-March 2020 after the pandemic spread to Kentucky and remained partially closed until very recently as a result of ongoing staffing shortages. The museum level of the building officially reopened to the public with regular business hours last week.

Thistle Cottage staff member Amie Waltrip said the Young Artist Showcase was the last exhibit displayed in the building’s art gallery before the closure in 2020, but it was cut short by the unprecedented pandemic that forced the building’s closure. “We only got to keep the show open for two weeks last time,” she said. “We just barely managed to squeeze in the open houses.

“There was an open house on Monday, and on Tuesday we found out that we were going to have to close.”

Because of that, Waltrip said, it feels especially fitting that the youth art show will also be the first to grace the newly re-opened gallery this year.

She added, “These students are so talented, and they deserve this time and opportunity for recognition. We love being able to host this event every year, so we’re really happy to bring it back.”

Arts Council Coordinator Sean Mooningham said the show is a way to encourage more participation and appreciation for the arts in Muhlenberg County as well as recognizing the local talent that county students are already showing. The Arts Council, he said, works hard to “keep the arts alive” in Muhlenberg County, and the Young Artist Showcase is just one of many ways the council can help to do that.

While participation varies each year, previous shows have proven to be incredibly popular, featuring artwork by as many as 300 Muhlenberg County students at a time. The number fluctuates depending on class sizes and other variables, but all of the county’s elementary and middle schools are encouraged to submit artwork from their students to be included in the show. Each art teacher is asked to submit up to 10 pieces of art per grade level.

The artwork will be judged by an anonymous local artist, and the top three pieces per grade level will be presented with appropriate awards.

Due to overwhelming response in previous years, two open houses will be held for this year’s show on consecutive evenings. The first open house, scheduled for Wednesday, March 1 from 3 to 6 p.m., will focus on artwork from students in kindergarten through third grade. A second open house will be held the following evening, March 2, at the same time for fourth through eighth grades.

The full show will be on display during both events. Members of the public are encouraged to come during the event that corresponds to the age group they are most interested in, but no one will be turned away at either event. Waltrip explained that, when the organizers held a single open house in previous years, the crowd was so large at times that parking and limited space inside the building became an issue. She said the library and Arts Council are hoping to avoid that by splitting the crowd across two evenings. “We don’t want anyone to have to stand in a line outside or have to navigate a huge crowd just to see their child’s artwork,” Waltrip said. “Hopefully, this will allow everyone to take their time and really get to enjoy the exhibit.”

The artwork will remain on display at Thistle Cottage through the end of the month during regular business hours. Thistle Cottage is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about the Young Artist Showcase at Thistle Cottage, call Thistle Cottage at 270-338-4760.

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