The Helen Day Art Center looks great once again, showing off the art of students at Stowe Elementary, Middle and High schools.

Prismatic concoctions of color on mammoth swaths of paper froth around the walls, and on pedestals are painstakingly crafted sculptures from the elementary school kids, breathtaking metalwork and jewelry made by the confident hands of high school students, and paintings and self-portraits rendered in fine lines and brilliant shades by middle school artists.

The Helen Day Art Center’s Student Art Show is back in full swing.

And it means the gallery itself is back in full swing, too. It’s the first show at the Helen Day Memorial Building, where Helen Day Art Center occupies the second floor, since a flood Dec. 10, caused by an erroneously activated sprinkler system, flooded the art center and the Stowe Free Library.

Both set up temporary quarters in smaller locations for more than four months.

The student art show is the Helen Day’s comeback party.

In addition to the Stowe public schools, the show includes work from the Mountain River School and from a guest school, Rumney Elementary in Middlesex.

‘Free and fun’

Lexi James, 16, a junior in Kate Crouse’s advanced studio art class at Stowe High School, says she likes having her art displayed at the show.

Among her favorite pieces this year is a large state of Vermont, dotted with 50 smaller states of Vermont made in mixed media, from feathers to tinfoil to maple leaves saved from last autumn to good old Vermont dirt, all encased in hot glue.

James says she got the idea after Crouse assigned the class to create something with 50 pieces.

“It was really open-ended,” Crouse said. “I wanted to do something free and fun.”

By the time students take Crouse’s advanced studio art class, they’ve realized they have a real love and passion for art, and often a strong sense of where they want to take their art.

Crouse aims to give them enough freedom to explore their personal artistic drives.

James says she loved the assignment.

“I find it relaxing sometimes” to delve into art, she said. “I’m having a lot of fun with mediums this year.”

She likes having her work on the walls, and enjoys gauging people’s reactions.

“I like people to stop at my pieces and observe for a while,” James said.

Crouse said watching her students grow over the course of the school year is fulfilling. By the time the art show comes around, they’ve amassed a body of work — enough that they sometimes surprise themselves with their own growth.

“They might even forget that they even did it,” Crouse said.

While the Stowe Elementary School students are “more outwardly excited” to see their work on the walls, the Stowe High students like to show off their creations to their friends.

“They say, ‘This one’s mine,’” Crouse said with a smile. “It brings out the little kid in them. … Kids take more time and really try to make that connection” when they know their work will be part of the show.

Self-portrait of the future

Carleen Zimbalatti, graphic design and fine metals art teacher at Stowe High, assigned her students a “We the Future” project in which they crafted a self-portrait that reflects a positive change they want to see in the world.

One featured a feminist take; another focused on climate change.

“That was a really interesting project,” Zimbalatti said.

Her foundational students — the ones just beginning to learn fine metals — crafted animals out of wires, and her foundational graphic design students made logos and business cards.

This year, Zimbalatti, who’s been teaching at Stowe High for 19 years, said her students skew young, since the bulk of her classes last year were seniors who graduated.

The Student Art Show runs through June 1 at the Helen Day Art Center.

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