by: Staff Photo / Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego High School graduate Joe Robinson, left, and LOHS art teacher Katie Erb organized and produced the high school art exhibit at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, held June 23-25. Robinson and Erb also entered their own artwork in the show.

She's finalizing plans for her wedding and he's working a summer job, but their busy schedules didn't keep Katie Erb and Joe Robinson from making this year's Festival of the Arts high school exhibit one of the most successful.

From securing business sponsors to coordinating student volunteers and hanging art, the duo built a full-fledged gallery from the ground up, complete with hors d'oeuvres and a hands-on studio.

In all, about 150 pieces were exhibited by students from Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, Westside Christian and Tigard high schools during the festival, with $600 worth of prizes awarded to the top winners.

'I think the quality is indicative of the training the students have seen in the Lake Oswego area. It's superb work,' said Andrew Edwards, executive director of the Lakewood Center for the Arts.

Erb, an art teacher at LOHS, and Robinson, her former student who is now a sophomore at Linfield College, unveiled the high school gallery at a public awards ceremony on June 24. Superintendent Bill Korach gave the opening remarks.

'It's been kind of cool to combine the community with the high school,' Erb, 30, said. 'My position blends perfectly with the high school education curator.'

It's the first time Erb and Robinson, her assistant, have taken on such a project, although in the past, she's organized high school shows at work and he's volunteered at the festival.

This project, however, was a bit different, considering the amount of hours it took for the duo to organize and pull off the major public exhibit.

'It's pretty much a team effort,' Erb said, nothing that Robinson worked from school while she attended steering committee meetings in Lake Oswego.

'It's great experience,' said Robinson, an art and business major. 'I'm organizing a lot of people and getting that experience.'

Before the opening, Candy Blash of the Portland Art Museum assisted the volunteer student curators with hanging pieces.

'We tried to make everything flow and the eye flow through the paintings,' Erb said. 'We tried to explain that to the kids and they got it. She taught the kids a lot.'

This year, Erb and Robinson invited Tigard and Westside Christian high schools to participate in order to give a wider array of work. They hope to attract even more entrants next year - up to 50 pieces per school.

'There's a lot of kids out there that are scared to show their art,' Robinson said.

A number of factors created hurdles for those who may have wanted to participate but couldn't, Erb said.

Each artist was allowed to contribute three for an entry fee of $10, but students had to follow festival guidelines that required framing each two-dimensional piece. Content and appropriateness of the piece were also taken into consideration.

'You have to work hard. It's expensive to frame work and not all the kids want to do that, stand in line to drop it off, show up to pick it up. It's a lot of commitment,' she added.

But for young artists, there are significant benefits. Besides showcasing their work to the public, students were given the option of pricing and selling their piece.

'You'd be hard pressed to find another high school show with an attendance of 25,000,' Robinson said.

Still, the majority often choose not to sell their work for sentimental reasons or keep it as an addition to their portfolio.

Robinson and Erb each selected a juror from an unbiased source. Nils Lou, a renowned ceramics professor at Linfield, judged the three-dimensional category, while David Schell, a high school art teacher in Vancouver, Wash., judged the two-dimensional category.

'For the past few years, the (judges) have been local people who live in Lake Oswego. I wanted them to be from a little further away. No one knew the teachers' styles or the students' styles,' Erb said.

Meanwhile, Erb and Robinson showcased art of their own. Robinson entered a number of his ceramic pieces and an oil painting. Erb, a Lakeridge graduate, entered a painting of Smith Rock that won her a blue ribbon and a $100 prize in the open show.

On top of balancing his entries and 150 others, Robinson also organized and helped run a kids' 'Clay Day,' a series of free and public lessons using the potter's wheel.

With their first show ending with success, Erb and Robinson hope to become co-curators for next year's festival and share more responsibility in making the exhibit better than before.

'He helped me a lot, but next year we will both equally do just as much work,' Erb said. 'It would be the right thing to do.'

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