Art Gallery in McKay Building Showcases Children Artists

Home to Brigham Young University’s McKay School of Education is what most people think of when they hear talk of the David O. McKay Building on campus. But there is more to it than that, ever since 2019 when the David O. McKay School of Education Children’s Art Gallery opened on the second floor.

According to Doug Allen, who heads up the gallery, the first exhibit was shown with about 20 pieces of work from all different grade levels. The artworks were chosen by Allen and a Beverley Taylor Sorenson arts specialist in Provo School District. “We found the pieces, ordered frames, had a reception in January 2020 and there were so many people that came – grandparents, brothers, sisters, kids. The teacher was there too. The kids were so excited,” he said. “Some of the parents said, ‘I didn’t even know my kids were good at this.’”

Allen said the idea for the gallery came from talks about how nice it would be if some student art pieces were exhibited in the McKay Building. “At BYU, they’ve always been able to acquire artworks from students from the high school art show at the Springville Museum of Art each year. Some are housed in the media center and the dean’s conference room and they are rotated yearly. Some of us have talked about how nice it would be to display some artwork here,” Allen said. And that is when the idea for the gallery was born.

“We applied through the Dean’s office to set up gallery space. It was approved. Then, it was the matter of whose work we would show and how to rotate through,” Allen said. “It’s a big job to select work from the elementary students, get it framed and put up. We then return the artwork in the frame and the kids get to keep the frame.”

After that initial exhibit, Allen gathered work from Jordan District at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Due to Covid-19 guidelines, there was no reception that time. Rather, a video showing of the artworks was created.  

Allen is a former art teacher and administrator himself, as well as an artist. He now oversees 115 Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program educators. He is the program coordinator for the BYU ARTS Partnership. While he enjoys looking through the many excellent children’s artworks, he is still working out the details of how the pieces will be chosen and displayed, but the plan is to change the exhibit twice each year. Next, works from Alpine School District will be displayed.

“When selecting works for the gallery, I was looking for the artistic skill, those basic art elements that you see – line, composition, color, contrast. It’s really surprising that these young people already have an understanding of these concepts,” Allen said. “It’s not just the inventive ideas that they did, but also the skill level in the work. They may have an idea of color representation or it is harmonious or has unity. We are trying to showcase a variety of work,  some realistic, some abstract, some mimic other artists like Van Gogh. Some are unusual things, but skillfully done.” Click here to watch a video of this year’s installation: https://byu.app.box.com/file/793428640449?s=gg6mfrihng7p0zwfthkt5eo5ncpbhpq2

The gallery, which is enjoyed by faculty and students alike, stands as a symbol of the BYU ARTS Partnership, which encourages and enables children to create art. Having a place to showcase just some of the incredible work that children can do proves what most of us already know – children are artists.

Have you visited the gallery? Share your favorite piece and why it resonates with you in the comments!

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first-grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for the Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate, and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at LauraCGiles@gmail.com.

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