FOCUS Gallery At USC Upstate Continues To Showcase Artwork From Area K-12 Schools

September 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm

The FOCUS Gallery at the University of South Carolina Upstate has been showcasing artwork of students in kindergarten through twelfth grade across the Upstate for nearly 10 years.

The FOCUS (Featuring Outside Creative Undertakings of Students) Gallery offers a broad range of student produced work from schools in the Upstate counties of South Carolina.  The exhibitions focus on various grade levels and diverse populations in visual arts classrooms. The FOCUS Gallery is a teaching model for the primary purpose to inform art education students about student work produced in standard based visual arts classrooms.

While supporting the mission of the University, it forges a relationship between K-12 education institutes and USC Upstate. Educators have certainly seen students benefit from the arrangement.

“My students felt honored and privileged to have their work displayed in the FOCUS Gallery and they were impressed with the level of respect given to them and their artwork,” said Rachelle L. Bianchi, art teacher at Riverside High School. “I saw a significant increase in their motivation to continue producing quality work, as well as an increased pride in their accomplishments. It was a memorable educational and personal experience for the students.”

“The gallery is used as a teaching tool for USC Upstate art education students,” said Dr. Mary Lou Hightower, associate professor of art education and director of the FOCUS Gallery at USC Upstate. “These Upstate students have the opportunity to meet the children that produce the work on exhibit and ask them questions about how the work is produced. During this dialogue, the Upstate art education student gains inside knowledge about the standards based visual arts classroom.”

Barry Edward, a student majoring in art education at USC Upstate said, “I’m really glad that I got a chance to talk with the kids at the FOCUS Gallery and to see their work on display. It really impressed upon me the potential children have, even at such a young age.”

According to Hightower, the gallery exhibits not only the artwork but also lesson plans and assessment techniques of the art teacher used during the creation of the works. Student writings about their own artwork are displayed when they are available.

This type of hands-on contact with K-12 age students that they will soon be teaching is invaluable according to Dana Blackwell, a student majoring in art education at USC Upstate.

“Exploring the work in the FOCUS Gallery is a very special opportunity,” said Blackwell.  “The atmosphere provides for an intimate look into the ideas of student artists and as art education majors we are able to interact, question and explore the context and processes behind each piece. Being exposed to the students and their families brings our mission as future art educators into view. This experience allows the student artist to verbally express what they learned during the creative processes. We, in turn, connect the student as a person with their artwork in the gallery, which is very cool.’

Each year the FOCUS Gallery showcases at least four different visual arts programs. During the spring, the gallery hosts the work of the graduating art education seniors in January and graduating seniors in the Graphic Design program. The FOCUS gallery includes hands-on working opportunities for students to assist in the operational features of the gallery as an educational experience while gaining applied training.

The exhibits scheduled in the FOCUS Gallery for the 2010-2011 academic year are listed below. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Mary Lou Hightower at (864) 503-5817 or

 August 30 – October 1 
AP Studio Art Institute 2010 Exhibit with a reception on Tuesday, September 14 at 5:00 p.m.

October 11 – December 3
Wade Hampton High School Exhibit with a reception on Tuesday, October 12 at 4:30 p.m.

 January 10 – February 25
Upstate Art Education Senior Show Exhibit with a reception on Tuesday, January 18 at 7:00 p.m.

March 1- 30
Lone Oak Elementary School Exhibit with a reception on Tuesday, March 15 at 4:00 p.m.

April 1- May 5
McCracken Jr High School Exhibit with a reception on Tuesday, April 12 at 4:00 p.m.