After months of preparation and creativity the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School opened its student art gallery at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf last Friday.

After months of preparation and creativity the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School opened its student art gallery at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf last Friday.

The weekend-long gallery showcased student art in a variety of styles from paints, to pencils to ceramics.

A variety of work adorned the walls, one section dedicated to Veterans Day-inspired works while others were creative pieces or portraits of celebrities and classmates.

Julie Hodges, the art teacher at the high school was excited to have a stream of students, parents and art-lovers through the room.

Each of her students entered one piece of art into the gallery and those who are passionate about pursuing a career in the creative field each showcased several additional pieces.

There were close to 150 pieces on display.

Hodges has taught art for 13 years, of which the first six were spent in Atlanta before taking a position at Port St. Joe Elementary School where she taught first grade.

She’s in her first year of teaching at the high school and has big plans for the art department.

In order to keep inspiring students, Hodges took a group of 17 students and three teachers to Atlanta earlier in the year. They visited the High Museum of Art, Savannah College of Art and Design and other cultural highlights.

Next March she’ll take 53 students to New York City on a visual arts tour with a hands-on workshop at one of the major museums.

Hodges’ goal is to move away from a general art class and be able to offer specialized classes at the school. Print work is a passion for Hodges and she’s working toward getting a printing press for the classroom. In addition, she’d like to have a 2-D working art room as well as a separate area dedicated to the creation of ceramics and sculpture.

“For me it wasn’t sports or academics that was my inspiration, it was always art,” said Hodges. “If students are not gifted in sports or academics, what else do they feel they can turn to for their inspiration? I always felt like it was art.”

In the future she hopes to get her students involved in the National Art Honor Society, host more art shows, enter regional art shows and bring in guest artists to work alongside the students on community projects.

Hodges hopes that these expansions will allow students to “find their medium of choice” and are able to further explore their passion for art whether they aspire to a creative career or simply a rewarding hobby.

“We need creative thinkers and problem solvers in our society, and I believe art will lead students down this path,” she said.

Kim Harrison, a member of the Gulf Alliance for Local Arts (GALA) added, “It’s a chance for kids to shine.”

A not-for-profit organization, GALA is dedicated to advancing and supporting the arts and all its forms to promote education, communication and appreciation throughout Gulf County.

Harrison went on to say that additional student art was recently sent to Tallahassee for an art show and that six students who contributed to the gallery were selected by teachers to take part in the Student Art Day event during this week’s Plein Air Paint-Out.

During the event, taking place in Carrabelle, these students will paint one-on-one with a participating professional artist and receive personalized instruction.