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Arts Festival 2017 Hands
A participant in the 2015 Beacon College Arts
Festival works on a handcasting project.

LEESBURG, FL — Even as American schools focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), Beacon College is STEAMing ahead with engaging Lake County students in artistic expression and highlighting the college’s budding artists with the school’s Second Annual Beacon College Arts Festival.

After a one-year absence, the festival — which debuted in 2015 — showcases paintings, drawings, photography and sculpture from Lake County students at Eustis, Tavares, Mount Dora, and Leesburg high schools in a juried competition. Their works will be exhibited in the Beacon College Student Center April 11-13. Winners will be recognized during an awards ceremony Thursday, April 13 at 6 p.m.

This year’s winners receive cash prizes for Best in Show, Best 3-D artwork, best 2-D artwork and honorable mentions.

Students could submit two pieces. The inaugural arts festival juried 68 works.

In addition, the festival includes a juried competition of artwork from the students’ art teachers.

Still, the festival isn’t strictly about competition. Beacon art instructors Boise, Russ Bellamy and Kimberly Watters will conduct workshops on April 11 and April 13 with some 80 Lake County students from the four participating high schools. Working with 20 students each from two schools on Tuesday and Thursday, instructors will explore lessons in glass, casting and other techniques.

This is “to expose students to methods and materials they don’t experience in high school,” Boise says. “I think it’s great because we’re doing two different schools at once so if they don’t know one another, it’s kind of a community environment. You’re experiencing this together and getting to see one another’s artwork, so it’s that exposure to one another, and to me, that’s what the arts is about — exposure.”

Exposure comes too for studio arts majors at Beacon, the first college or university accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences.

Their work will be showcased in a concurrent exhibition at the school’s Kristin Michelle Mason Art Gallery.

Beacon students’ works will be available for viewing from March 30 – April 17 in the Kristin Michelle Mason Gallery on the campus of Beacon College and juried by Lee Clarke, a Canadian artist, who teaches art for the online departments of the Los Angeles Film School and Full Sail University.

The opening reception is April 6 from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

Not that Lake County students are the only ones who get to unshackle their inner Michaelangos.

On Saturday, April 15, aspiring artists can enjoy free workshops that explore casting and glass techniques.

Students can learn the process of glass lamination through discussions of contemporary masters of the technique and experiments in shape and form using glass fragments bonded with a special non-toxic light-sensitive glue.

Another workshop walks students through the process of making molds and small-life resin castings of their hands and ways to use it as wearable sculpture.

In a third workshop, aspiring artists can be blinded with a bit of science (the coefficient of expansion — the rate at which glass cools) and experiment with flat glass and create small glass paintings later to be fused in a kiln.

Even as the lawmakers debate the extrinsic value of art, Boise says the arts festival is an invaluable way to nurture and cultivate the spark that fires art.

“The world wouldn’t exist in the way it does without creativity,” Boise says. “So, if you take art out of the equation and boil it down to the basic essential of creativity, that’s what we’re harnessing. That creativity is what leads to architects, designers, and that’s what’s building the infrastructure of the world, and to me, that’s why it’s important.

Workshops are free, but require advanced registration.

The events schedule follows below: