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Students share art, dreams, with the community
Built one square at a time, students contribute to a public art display that can be enjoyed by their peers, teachers and community. Once each square is painted, USD 428 K-6 art teachers Shannon Wedel and Miraya Starnes assemble the pieces to create the finished mural to be displayed, in this case for the Lincoln Lions.

Actor Thomas Mann once said, “Art is to the community what the dream is to the individual.” Young learners in USD 428 are inviting the community to view their dreams and art education journey by showcasing accomplishments of the past year through a virtual art show and public art instillations. 

The 21st annual “Watching Young Artists Grow” art show, typically held at the Barton County Historical Society Museum each spring, will engage the community on a virtual platform again in 2021. The show is categorized by school building and features over 1,000 works of art from USD 428’s K-6 students.

“There are 1,232 pieces of art to be exact,” said Shannon Wedel, USD 428 art teachers. “Although we are unable to showcase the work in person, we’re thrilled to celebrate our students’ talent, curiosity, and creativity.”

A link to the virtual show is available on the USD 428 homepage at

Further exploring public art, USD 428 Elementary Art teachers Shannon Wedel and Miraya Starnes are leading sixth graders in a classroom unit on the topic. 

“We have been discussing with students how public art can build community,” said Wedel. “We have looked at famous examples of public art, such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Wall, as well as local examples like the metal sculptures done by B&B Metal Arts, the bronze sculptures installed by Rosewood, The Gift and The Rifleman in the Barton County Courthouse Square, as well as numerous murals throughout Great Bend.”

Putting theory into practice, students collaborate to design and execute an outdoor mural. In 1998, panel cases were installed in front of each building in collaboration with a citywide mural project in Great Bend. More than 20 years later, students still contribute to the public art landscape each year. Every student contributes at least one square, or more, to the finished mural project. Individually, students also complete a small sculpture project, a small-scale model for a hypothetical public art instillation. 

“The individual project is to think of a local destination – park, business, sports complex, etc. – where they would like to create a public sculpture. It’s fun to see the landmarks that resonate with them most and the ideas they imagine,” said Wedel. 

As for the mural projects, Wedel commented, “at this point, three ‘school pride’ murals have been completed and installed (Lincoln, Park, and Eisenhower) with plans to tackle the rest before the end of the school year.”

The new murals are located outside the elementary school buildings in the permanent display cases near the front entrances. The community can view them during daytime hours.

For more information about the “Watching Young Artists Grow” art show or the K-6 art program, visit or contact the District Education Center, 620-793-1500.