Being an artist means spending time in the studio to create a piece of art or a body of work worthy enough for public display.

More than 100 Maine student-artists get their first taste of public exposure with the opening of Youth Art Month at the Portland Museum of Art. The annual exhibition coincides with National Youth Art, which has been observed nationally since 1961. The Maine Art Education Association sponsors the effort in Maine.

The art is on view at the museum through March 29.

Youth Art Month demonstrates how Maine schools are shaping artists. Maine art teachers choose the work in the show. It features art from students statewide, grades K through 12. The exhibition provides encouragement and recognition, said Westbrook art teacher Nancy Goan.

She chose a self-portrait by Westbrook fifth-grader Mawadda Al Kinani for inclusion in the show. The mixed-media painting is titled “I Am.”

Al Kinani hugged her teacher when she found out Goan picked her for the show.

“I like the fact that the child who is picked for the show feels like they are the most important person in the world. They must be a real artist because their work was selected to hang in the museum,” Goan said.

Jodi Thomas, an art teacher at Thornton Academy, selected a drawing by Sarah Fan, a senior who intends to study visual art or architecture in college. Getting in the show sometimes provides just the boost a student needs to think about art as a course of study. “The students truly gain a new level of confidence that accelerates their passion in the art-making process,” Thomas said.

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