Thirty-six years ago, a group of volunteers founded the Perry County Council of the Arts (PCCA) in Newport.
One of their first priorities was developing a student art showcase to provide performance opportunities for Perry County youth. At that time, PCCA staff had initiated relationships with the county schools through artist residencies, and they wanted to build on those relationships.
So, PCCA worked with the schools to develop Youth Art Day, now an annual Perry County tradition that demonstrates the creative talents of public, private and home-schooled students.
“Youth Art Day is a fun and exciting day, and we’re thrilled with the growth of the program,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Tracy Meisinger-Troutman.
Over the years, the average number of entries in the event has grown to more than 700, and the average attendance for the one-day program is 900 to 1,000 people, she said.
There are three major categories in the program:
- Dance, drama and music performances, including tap, ballet, mime, comedy, piano, vocal, brass, woodwind, strings and percussion
- Literature, such as poetry, essay and short story
- Visual arts and video, including drawing, painting, pottery, crafts, photography, graphic design, sculpture, recycled materials and video
For PCCA staff, ongoing challenges are ensuring that all artistic disciplines are represented and generating community excitement for the event. So, they work closely with teachers, who in turn spread their enthusiasm to their students.
“Another challenge is that families are faced with a number of competing activities on any given Saturday in April,” says Meisinger-Troutman.
Students get a chance not just to show off their talents, but to win cash prizes. Amounts of $100 are awarded in the categories of “Perry County’s Got Talent” for best performance in dance, drama, singing or instrumental performance, and for the “People’s Choice” award. The “Best in Show” winner takes home $250.
Also, art entries selected by PCCA board members in the “Director’s Choice Award” category will be on display at the PCCA gallery from June 22 to July 20, said Meisinger-Troutman.
“We have found this award thrills students, as their works will be on display at the same gallery where the artwork of more than 190 of the region’s most talented artisans is displayed,” she said. “The gallery is prominently located on the square in Newport.”
There are a number of special events this year, as well.
Professional artist Emily Nell will work with West Perry Middle School students as part of a PCCA Arts-In-Education residency the month before Youth Art Day. She will help students create art projects using the techniques of scherenschnitte (paper-cutting) and watercolor. Students will be invited to share their creations and their experiences in a culminating event.
A second special event will feature mural painting with teaching artist Jon Laidacker, who is currently working with students at Greenwood High School to create a mural highlighting the history of Liverpool. Historians from the Liverpool Historical Society also will be on hand to share with visitors the history of the borough.
On the literary side of the event, Poet Laureate Lynne Reeder, a West Perry High School English teacher, will host a reading of poems written by her creative writing students. Reeder was the Perry County Poet Laureate in 2016 and 2018 and PCCA Educator of the Year in 2017.
“We continue to review our programs to ensure families enjoy their weekend time at Youth Art Day,” said Meisinger-Troutman.
Perry County Council of the Arts Youth Art Day takes place April 13, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at West Perry High School, 2608 Shermans Valley Rd., Elliottsburg. Admission is $4 for adults, and students attend free. For more information, visit www.perrycountyarts.org.