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Student art will take center stage at festival

KINGSTON — A celebration of young artists has blossomed into a full-blown gala.

An event that started just a few years ago as a small gathering of student artists and their parents has grown into a 500-person gala attracting citizens from all corners of the North Kitsap community.

North Kitsap School District administrators are gearing up for the Seventh Annual Festival of the Arts May 13 from 6-9 p.m. at Kingston High School. Admission is free. The celebration will feature displays and performances by students from every school in the district as well as nearby art schools. In addition, local artists will present artwork and demonstrations of their own. Representatives from area art schools and businesses will be on hand to offer advice to students looking to get serious about a career in the arts.

Festival founder and KHS Arts Department Head James Andrews said the event is meant to show students the significance of art in education, but in the broader scope of their lives.

"It helps kids understand that art doesn't have to end with school," Andrews said. "It shows them that ... people make a living with art."

Northwest College of Art, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Liberty Bay Art School and West Sound Academy will be the out-of-district art schools attending the festival. Liberty Bay Art School will be moving its art class to KHS for the night, and the Tacoma Clay Art Center will be conducting a wheel throwing demonstration.

Festival organizers also honor one person who has made a positive difference for the arts in Washington state by presenting the annual Advancement of Arts Education in Washington State award. The 2009 recipient is Una McAlinden, executive director of ArtsEd Washington, an organization with a primary goal to give children in Washington the chance to learn via the arts.

"She's an extremely good advocate for arts education in our state," Andrews said.

Past honorees have included State Program Director for Arts Education AnnRene Joseph, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson, Gov. Christine Gregoire and State Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge).

When Andrews hosted the inaugural Festival of the Arts at Kingston Junior High in 2003, the event was attended by a small cohort of art and music students, parents and staff from that school. As time passed, and especially after the advent of the Arts Education award, the festival began to gather a following, and has not slowed down. Last year marked the first time the event included works from every school in the district.

"It's pretty packed in here right from when the doors open until the end," said Andrews.

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