Battle Creek

Battle Creek student artists are a Class Act

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.

A room in her parent’s home dedicated to “creative mess” is giving Lilyana Collins a space to grow her artistic side.
Visitors to the Art Center of Battle Creek will get to see that side of Lilyana and her peers during the annual “Class Act” exhibit featuring the work of area student artists in grades K-12. The exhibit began on March 4 and concludes on Saturday.
Lilyana, who is in 7th grade at Lakeview Middle School, describes the piece of art she created as being similar to a radial paperfold. The colors she chose to use were based on the blues, greens and purples that went into a an embroidery floss friendship bracelet she made earlier.
“I thought those colors would look cool in this project,” Lilyana says.
Her piece was created over the course of three days during a class at school where she and her fellow students were all working on similar projects.
“It took three days but we only had one hour each day. It took three class periods to do it,” Lilyana says, adding that deciding where each piece of paper would go in the design before it was glued in was the most challenging part for her.
This most recent piece of art represents the second time Lilyann has participated in Class Act. The annual exhibit highlighting the work of student artists has been a staple of the Art Center since the 1960’s, says Linda Holderbaum, Executive Director of the organization.
Holderbaum says the youth event is held in March which has been designated Youth Art Month in Michigan. She says it was paused in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

This year’s exhibit features the artwork of about 800 students. Holderbaum says most of the majority of submissions from elementary-age students are paintings because they are the easiest to transport with more multi-dimensional work coming from middle and high school students.

“There are three portraits that are just exquisite and good or better than a  lot of adult work that I’ve seen,” she says.

Class Act "brings the kids and their families into the Art Center and emphaszies the need for art in the community," says Holderbaum. "The last two years have been so difficult for these kids. They need some way to express themselves. Art is a good therapy. It is something we need to do to be a human being."

When Lilyana was in Second Grade she had another piece in Class Act – a watercolor which featured fish-faced dinosaurs, says her mother, Alicia Collins.
“It has a blue background with an orangish sand color and green fish with orange and purple fins and another fish with blue and red fins” Lilyana says. “There’s seaweed in the picture and an underwater castle.”
Alicia Collins says she does all that she can to support her daughter’s creative side which includes that room in their home.
“We have it downstairs,” Liliyana says. “It’s a really big room which has all of our arts stuff. It’s pretty cool to have all of this available to us to do drawing and painting and different mediums.”
This is where the creative messes happen. Alicia Collins says she is “pretty creative,” something that has filtered down to her daughter.
She says she set up that room because “selfishly, I like doing art. There’s instruction to do formal art, but for kids it should be a release of their personal expression. From the time that they are little, it helps with their fine motor skills and can help emotionally. A lot of art is done for yourself personally.”
Lilyana says she doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t doing art of some kind.
“My mom is a really artsy and she’s encouraged me to do art since I was really little. She scrapbooks and she’s a photographer,” Lilyana says. “It makes me happy when I’m working on a piece of art, especially somedays when I’m not feeling good.”
Of the opportunity Class Act gives students like herself, Lilyana says, “I think it’s pretty cool and might benefit me in the future if I become an artist.”
“This kind of feels like her star moment,” Alicia Collins says. “If it brings her joy, I will support her.”

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Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.