400 youth artworks come of age at Troy-Hayner Cultural Center

By Karen Ander Francis

Photo: ‘Donuts’ by Concord Elementary 2nd graders at Troy-Hayner photo: Justine Bledsoe

No, they’re not junior golfers.

These “young masters,” artists from Troy area schools, have been selected to showcase their creativity to a community long recognized for supporting the arts.

Now in its 28th year, Young Masters Troy Area School K-12 art exhibit opened Friday, Feb. 17, and runs through Sunday, April 2, at Troy-Hayner Cultural Center. Artists, their parents, grandparents, and assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins will view 400 works of art in the second-floor gallery spaces. Artwork will be displayed “European salon style, meaning it’s floor to ceiling with very little space between works,” explains Leona Sargent, Hayner’s exhibit coordinator.

“It’s crazy chaos, but it’s great for the Hayner. We cross our fingers and make it work,” laughs Jill Hartman, chair of Troy City Schools Art Department, who also represents the school system on Hayner’s Board of Directors.

What begins in creative chaos culminates in an elegant evening. The opening night reception befits the venue, a legendary mansion, given to the people of Troy by distillery heiress Mary Jane Hayner. Sargent expects 700 guests on opening night, including the Troy mayor.

As she explains with more than a bit of excitement, “It’s a formal affair where they bring their [family members] and meet their teachers, find their art… and show their art and say, ‘Look what I did.’ This is a neat thing, neat thing. Kids learn how to be involved in the arts.”

Artwork for Young Masters is selected by K-12 art teachers at Troy City, Troy Christian, and St. Patrick schools. But, for the first time this year, the show will feature a kindergarten piece from Overfield, a private preschool with an art teacher.

“This is really a Troy-area, Miami County-wide show,” states Hartman, art teacher at Troy High and organizer of the event, emphasizing, “It is very much a team event. Teachers select and prepare artwork for hanging and send home letters with students regarding the event and their work being selected for the show.”

Art is product-oriented, and Young Masters offers the teachers, as well as students, the opportunity to show the results of their creative efforts and energy.

“Why not show off what we do?” Hartman asks, acknowledging that many people, including parents and (sometimes) even teachers in the same building, may not realize what art teachers are doing unless they can see what is created. With its broad array of art and wide age range of artists, Young Masters reveals the complex and multi-faceted nature of art instruction—and shows just what those kids are up to.

“For me as a professional, [Young Masters] brings validity to what our art teachers do each and every day in their classrooms with a variety of materials,” Hartman explains. “There is a product that is created… and we can’t possibly tell that story without an exhibit.”

The longevity of Young Masters not only is a tribute to the students and their teachers but also to the people of the community who wholeheartedly support the arts.

“Troy has always supported artists and the arts in general, dance, and music, and that says… ‘The arts are valuable,’” maintains Hartman, who grew up here. She is gratified that “the [school] board office always says, ‘How can we help you?’”

Media is not limited for this show. Along with traditional paints, pencils, charcoal, etc., teachers use materials that “they often scrounge,” notes Hartman, reporting that residents call at least twice a week offering extra copies of magazines.* (She’s always glad to pick them up.) She also cites the overwhelming response for two-liter plastic bottles for a Dale Chihuly-style sculpture class.

As with many formal affairs, there will be music when Troy Junior High School’s Eighth Grade Orchestra debuts at Young Masters.  Under the baton of Stephanie Strope, orchestra director for Troy City Schools, the young musicians will play a repertoire ranging from Bach to Bluegrass.

“We thought it was a wonderful opportunity to combine the arts,” Hartman explains. “It just seems to make sense. The Hayner is the right venue for something like this.”

Noting that the cultural center has hosted many “big names” over the years, Hartman says, “We bill [Young Masters] like we would any other exhibit at Hayner. The fact that kids’ art is to be on the walls of such a venue, I think, is a big deal.”

Another first-time feature of opening night is a costumed photo booth for a family memento of the evening’s festivities. Even without such photographic evidence, these students and their families will have a night to remember.

“It’s always well attended and well received,” says Hartman.  “In this day and age, don’t we need to feel good? Don’t we need to feel collectively happy?  What our young people and our teachers are doing—I think we need those warm, fuzzy moments.”

‘Young Masters’ Troy Area Schools K-12 art exhibit runs through Sunday, April 2 at Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 W. Main St. in downtown Troy. Hours vary. For more information, please call 937.339.0457 or visit

Editor’s note: This sentence has been changed from the original print story to clarify that Troy residents, not magazine companies, offer old magazine copies to Troy City Schools Art Department. Magazine donations are always encouraged.

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