Ann Halbur, president and administrator for the Students in the Arts program, has been helping educators recognize the hard work of Students in the Arts since the program began in 1994.
The program was originally started by the local radio station. When she left there, the station continued to run the program.
In 2002, she took responsibility for it again.
“I trademarked and administered it,” she said.
The program initially recognized high school students.
“Then we added the college, the next year it was middle school then the next year, elementary schools,” she said. “We had kindergarten through college starting in 1999.”
She emphasizes that the program is a partnership with the schools. The program is funded through donations and is not paid for by the school.
“Without partners and sponsors the program would not be able to function,” she said. “It’s a very generous community.”
The program has offered the recognized students various venues over the years. In the past, field trips to museums, theaters and other art-related sites were common.
In 2017, they took their last field trip.
“Interest was dwindling,” she said. “We thought we would change. Give kids a greater opportunity to do the arts in the community.”
Some of those included a Christmas music program at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village’s Opera House that also involved a group of students painting a triptych that was on stage during the show.
“There was music and art involved in that,” she said. “The kids painted. They also decided what songs they would sing, what colors to represent the joy of Christmas to them.”
Local artist BG Smith and music professional Andrea Minikis worked with students.
The paintings were behind the students when they performed.
“That was so awesome,” she said.
In February, students were partnered with the Iowa Central Community College Culinary Arts program to have a pop up restaurant.
“The chefs taught them how to make an artistic plate of food,” she said.
They also got to tour the stage area at the college where the performing arts students were preparing for the musical “Grease.”
“Some of the kids got a backstage experience of seeing what it took.” she said. “Half were cooking, half were learning this is what we go through to produce a musical.”
The restaurant project involved the students, their families — who enjoyed a fine meal — and many members of the public who sampled the food.
“They named it, proposed what the menu would look like, all with the guidance of the instructors at Iowa Central,” she said.
The students also got some hands-on experience, and some observation time of the processes, during the creating of permanent trail art for Webster County Conservation.
“This was Matt Cosgrove’s dream at the entrance to Kennedy,” she said, referring to John F. Kennedy Memorial Park. “That’s permanent trail art the whole community will get to enjoy. Without them, it couldn’t have happened.”
She said the students who are selected to participate in the Students in the Arts are picked by their instructors. The selection process is not so much about talent, but rather hard work.
“The teacher is recognizing that individual for the effort that they’re putting into their choice of art.” Halbur said. “It’s not about talent. Everyone has talent. It’s about what you do with that talent. They identify the kids that go above and beyond.”
Halbur also said the program is not just about the arts. Its also about developing positive personality traits such as dependability, confidence, participation and leadership, among others.
“They may not be doing art 10 years from now,” she said, “but those skills are going to help them be a better employee and citizen.”