Prototypes for passion

Da Vinci Fest shows students’ art, science talents

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — If it’s possible to make a prototype for passion and inspiration, it was on display at Da Vinci Fest on Saturday.

Students, parents, exhibitors and U.S. Sen. Al Franken attended the annual event at Stillwater Area High School that shows off some of the school district’s best and brightest art and science students.

Gazette Photo by Avery Cropp   Alex and Max Gerald play with toys at toymaker Tony Morley's Red Racer  Studios exhibit.

Gazette Photo by Avery Cropp
Alex and Max Gerald play with toys at toymaker Tony Morley’s Red Racer Studios exhibit.

Andrew Barton, an Oak-Land Junior High School seventh grader, took part in the science part of the event. His project focused on wheat production to see what combination of fertilizer and soil would grow the best wheat and create the least fertilizer run-off that causes algae blooms. Barton discovered the best combination is cow manure and loam soil. His work was inspired by another famous scientist, Norman Borlaug.

“Do you know who he is,” Barton asked.

When he was told she didn’t he said: “Oh, people need to know more about him. He saved billions of people. He’s kind of the inspiration for my project. He genetically engineered wheat to make it shorter which made it more resistant to diseases he saved billions of people with this and I’m kind of following in his footsteps.”

Barton’s project took a lot of commitment, but he said was worth the trouble.

“I was working on the project for most of the summer.” he said. “And now I’m here and I got to meet the senator and it’s just so awesome. All the hard work was worth it.”

Drew Jonell talks about his photography with Sen. Al Franken at the Da Vinci Fest art exhibit on Saturday. Franken visited the festival and toured the Stillwater Area High School's fabrication lab during his visit.

Gazette Photo by Avery Cropp Drew Jonell talks about his photography with Sen. Al Franken at the Da Vinci Fest art exhibit on Saturday. Franken visited the festival and toured the Stillwater Area High School’s fabrication lab during his visit.

In the art gallery, the passion for their craft was also apparent in friends Drew Jonell and Emily Blevin. Both artists had work featured in the gallery.

“This is the first year we’re competing against each other in something,” said Jonell, a Saint Paul Creative Arts High School student. “We’ve met and competed in other shows against each other in the past. Unfortunately this is my last year in Da Vinci Fest, but I’m hoping to come back as a judge next year.”

The pair said the Da Vinci fest experience allows them to discover pride in their work. They especially love the feedback from area artists who are judges and help them improve their craft.

“Young artists get the experience of a gallery and it gives you a lot of pride to be here,” Jonell said. “With everything so nicely displayed, and the experience, it will create memories later on that they can always fall back on.”

“It’s hard to express what it’s like to have judges who are artists, or people look at your work from afar and you hear them say ‘Oh that’s so cool’ it’s just great,” said Blevin.

After Franken toured Da Vinci Fest, he said he was impressed by the passion that students had for their work.

“You can see that the kids are really enjoying it. I did both science, math and also art, if you call comedy an art. I’d call it a craft, but a very fine craft. Again I think that you want schools to serve all these parts and it’s great when students find their passion that keeps them engaged and interested in learning,” Franken said. “I’ve seen a lot of that passion today, and it almost doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever a student finds for him or herself that creates that passion — whether it’s art projects or science projects — it references and creates different points of view and different ways of thinking.”

As one sixth-grade teacher, Derek Olson from Afton-Lakeland said, it also gives students in a lot of different areas the chance to be recognized and shine.

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