Students Act as Art Curators at St. Louis Art Festival

Last weekend, thousands flocked to the St. Louis Art Festival to take in the local talent and maybe even purchase a piece or two. Westminster’s Isabel Warner (senior), Moorea Atkins (junior), and Carter Hickel (junior) joined in on the fun as part of Centene’s Art Aficionados program and spent their Saturday meeting artists and pricing artwork.

“I learned a lot about their personal process, sources of inspiration, and art-making techniques from talking to [the artists],” Moorea says. “As an aspiring artist, it was really interesting for me to get to talk to them in a personal manner and learn more about how to make it in the art world. I would not have had the same experience had I not been involved in the Art Aficionados [program] since they were busy trying to sell their art all day!”

Westminster was one of thirteen schools chosen to participate in the Centene Charitable Foundation’s Art Aficionados program. The program focuses on engaging students in the world of art curation and gives students the opportunity to purchase two pieces of art—one for Centene’s permanent collection and one for their school’s permanent collection.

“It was an important experience for the students because it introduced them to a high-stakes scenario of creative practice, marketing, direct interaction with artists, and the selection/purchase of works of art,” says John Sarra, Westminster fine arts department chair. “Students had to determine and refine their own aesthetic preferences but then needed to accommodate the groups on whose behalf they were making purchases. They had to move beyond ‘I like it’ and ask ‘Would these other people like it, and why or why not?'” 

To prepare for the fair, the students worked through a curriculum provided by the program.

art-aficionados-artwork-selection“We started by researching the artists coming to the fair,” Moorea says. “We all had different tastes in artists, but there were one or two artists that we all had in common and liked. We then deliberated over what we liked the most, and which specific artists to keep our eyes out for when we got to the fair.”

At the fair, the group worked with a fixed budget of $750 per piece to determine what they would like to purchase and could afford.

“When we were at the art fair, the students did all the talking,” Mr. Sarra says. “They introduced themselves to the artists, established relationships, and then returned later to negotiate their purchases.”

Moorea, Isabel, and Carter were able to negotiate the purchase of a painting they knew would be perfect for the halls of Westminster.

It was fun to see their confidence grow,” Mr. Sarra says. “They were somewhat amazed that the artists were willing to work with them on the price in order to fit their budget!”

The piece, “Booklist”, is by award-winning Illinois artist Cali Hobgood. Ms. Hobgood is a widely collected artist represented in public and private collections, galleries, and museums around the country.

“We were drawn to [the piece] because in freshman year one of the required books to read for English class is ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, which we all loved and regard it as one of our favorite books we have read during our time at Westminster,” Moorea says. “We thought it would be a good addition to the academic atmosphere at Westminster, and we were drawn to the way the artist painted the books since she is a sensory artist and she could communicate smell, touch, and sound through her piece.”

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