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story.lead_photo.caption Russellville Elementary School art teacher Amy Potts, left, visits with two of her award-winning students, Colten Koenigsfeld, middle, and Paige Randolph on Monday at the Capitol as they view their work in a Capitol Rotunda display. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The Missouri Capitol buzzed with activity Wednesday morning as hundreds of young art students from around the state, their teachers and their families gathered to celebrate Youth Art Month.

The annual event emphasizes the value of art education and encourages public support for school art programs.

"Art education develops self-esteem, appreciation of the work of others, self-expression, cooperation with others and critical thinking skills," according to organizers of the event. "All of these skills are vital to the success of our future leaders — our children."

The event is intended to show that art develops critical thinking and expressive skills; increases business, community and government support for the arts; and demonstrates that art is essential for a better quality of life for people.

Each year, the governor selects one piece of work for Youth Art Month that will be matted and displayed in the Governor's Office and one that is displayed in the Governor's Mansion until March the following year.

The keynote speaker for the event, held in the Rotunda, was state Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland. Walsh filled in for U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, because Hartzler was attending the funeral for Clinton police officer Ryan Morton, who was shot and killed March 6.

Hartzler had supported the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, Walsh said. The act reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which included a $20 million grant program for arts and education.

"Truth be told," Walsh confided with more than 500 people attending the event, "I don't play a musical instrument, and anything I draw will never win an award. Of course, the great thing about art is that you don't have to be an artist to enjoy a beautiful piece of music or to appreciate a painting."

Either can enrich the lives of artists and art lovers, she said.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is transforming to STEAM with the addition of an arts program as part of the curriculum, she said.

Studies show, Walsh said, that children who study arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement than those who don't. They score higher on SATs; they stay in school.

As students continue their education, they can look forward to more recognition for their art projects, Walsh said. She reminded students deadlines for the Congressional Art Competition are nearing. The competition generally is limited to high school students, but may be extended to seventh- and eighth-graders if those grades are included in the high school campus and the Congress member in the district approves. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Missouri, set the deadline to submit for his office at April 16.

Also coming in April is the Russellville Spring Fine Arts Festival, said Amy Potts, an arts teacher at Russellville.

Every school in the state is allowed to submit four pieces for Youth Art Month, she said. Some instructors choose to present multiple pieces by a single artist. Potts offered four selections by different artists — a kindergartner, a fifth-grader and two eighth-graders.

"We brought these to represent our school," she said.

During the Russellville festival, which is scheduled 6-7 p.m. April 9, each student will be allowed up to two works. The show probably will showcase 600 in total.

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"Hundreds of people will come," Potts said. "And the show will be up for another week."

Potts took two of her students to the event Monday in the Capitol.

Russellville art displayed at Monday's event was created for the spring show last year, said Michelle Randolph, of Russellville. Randolph's 14-year-old daughter, Paige, now in eighth grade, had drawn a self-portrait that was displayed in the Capitol. Paige said the process to create the artwork was complex. It involved first getting a photograph taken, then transferring it in grids to the paper where she drew the portrait.

A National Geographic show about exotic sea creatures inspired 11-year-old Colten Koenigsfield. The Russellville fifth-grader let his imagination wander as he watched the show.

His red creature (drawn with crayon and pencil) with legs and sharp teeth could live in lakes or salt water.

Koenigsfield walked about 12 feet away from his drawing to demonstrate the size of the fish-like animal.

"I was thinking of a fish that could have legs and could eat people," Koenigsfield said. "It will only eat you if you mess around with it. Its favorite food is catfish."

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