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Smallwood Youth Gallery is an illusion

by Heidi Alder, staff writer

The first exhibit in the new Smallwood Youth Gallery is all an illusion – an optical illusion, the theme chosen by youngsters who designed it.

The idea for the gallery began with Cecile Brown, curator of museums at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center, applying for a grant from the Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation in Houston, Texas.

The Smallwood Foundation funds American educational projects in three communities, and one of them is ours, Brown said.

Suzy Stockdale is on the board for the Smallwood Foundation, and she encouraged Brown to apply for the grant.

“She knew I had this idea, and she thought it was good. She reminded me that their application date had moved up,” Brown said.

She received the grant in May and the project began in August to coincide with the new school year.

“I was thrilled when I got it. I got everything I asked for. It wasn’t cut back at all,” Brown said.

Brown works with Barbara Young, teacher of gifted and talented students at various Douglas County schools.

Eleven 6th and 7th graders from around the district were invited by Young to participate, free of charge, in the exhibit.

“It was a five-month commitment,” Brown said. “They met every week, sometimes three times a week and sometimes on Saturdays. Barbara made a schedule for them. They worked in the arts and crafts room downstairs because the floor is vinyl.”

The art supplies, frames, computer, desk, stereo system, field trips and Young’s supervision were all paid for by the $21,000 grant, Brown said.

“They wanted music to add to the exhibit, so we bought a stereo system and CD player,” Brown said. “I donated the speakers from home.”

The students chose “Optical Illusions” as the theme of the youth gallery’s first exhibit.

“They wanted everything to be optical, to really engage your senses,” Brown said.

The exhibit includes various paintings by the students as well as hands-on electrical ball illusions.

“They might explore strobe lighting and its effect on optics,” Brown said.

The students who are participating in the program are Thomas Chapman, Wade Beavers, Jimmy Clayton, Janelle Davis, Sami Johnson, Andy Martin, Skylar Young, Christine Ward, Katie O’Neill, Cristina Siqueiros and Lauren Miller.

The grant is enough to cover exhibits by two groups of 15 children. Each group has about six months to construct and design an exhibit.

“The teacher, Barbara Young, envisions the next group of 15 will probably carry on in a similar theme to build on what’s here,” Brown said. “They don’t have to – they can choose what they want to do.”

There were originally 15 students in the first group, but not all of them were able to commit to all the months of work, Brown said.

“If you were here, you’d see why it is limited to 15,” Brown said, laughing. “It needs to be small enough to be manageable.”

The students took a field trip to the Churchill County Museum in Fallon on Oct. 1, 2000, that was funded by the grant. Brown plans to take the next group to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.

In addition to the grant, many community members and parents have donated time and materials to the youth gallery.

“The Lions Club and Ray Tomalas donated a total of $700 before we got the grant,” Brown said.

Another project the kids will work on is a Web page design for the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center’s Web site.

“I just wanted to give the kids the opportunity to enrich their education,” Brown said. “I know they get the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) and athletics in school, but I wanted to expand their horizons, show them there’s more out there. We’re more limited here, it’s not like San Francisco with an art gallery around every corner.”

The grand opening will be held from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395, Gardnerville. It is open to the public and refreshments will be served. For information, call 782-2555 or visit the Web site at http://www.carsonvalleymuseums.com.