hero image


Inspiring Young Artists in Kalamazoo County

“What I love about teaching art is it gives kids a chance to really find themselves and be confident in who they are and their abilities. It teaches them to have opinions about things. To find different answers. It’s not the product, it’s the process to get kids thinking.” – Sarah Cheek-Toomey, Winchell Elementary School

“Art has always been an interest of mine. I like how you can express your feelings without even saying anything. If you have a piece of artwork it just explains everything,” says 10-year-old Anna Edlefson, a fifth grade student at Winchell Elementary School in Kalamazoo County. 

Anna’s art project, a shaped metal bird with different shades of blue, white and gray beads, was selected by her art teacher, Mrs. Sarah Cheek-Toomey, to be shown as part of the Young Artists of Kalamazoo County Exhibition at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA), from May 14 – June 5.

For over 35 years the Young Artists exhibition has provided an opportunity for student artists from Kalamazoo County to have their art displayed at the KIA, a nonprofit art museum and school that offers art classes, exhibitions, lectures, events, activities and a permanent collection. More than 1,000 students participate from approximately 60-65 schools. 

“The Young Artists program provides a great opportunity for our students to get recognition for all their hard work throughout the year,” says Toomey. “My favorite part of the show is the opening. To see their faces when they come down for the opening and what a great experience it is…it’s a big deal and they’re so excited about it.”

Thanks to support from local companies, including a grant from the ITC Charitable Giving Program, the museum was able to offer complimentary admission on opening weekend and provide two scholarships per school for students to continue their art education through KIA classes. 

“It’s great for us to be able to work with the schools, and to honor and celebrate how hard the teachers work and the great things they’re doing in our schools,” says Michelle Stempien, curator of education for the KIA. “Young Artists is one of our favorite exhibitions. It’s just a great amount of fun.” 

The ITC Charitable Giving Program

The ITC Charitable Giving Program focuses on five key areas to help strengthen our communities and reflect the values of ITC. Those include education, environmental stewardship, social services, health & wellness and arts & culture.

Community Approach Links

Related Projects