Minden’s youth will take centre stage at a new art exhibit debuting at Agnes Jamieson Gallery this weekend.

Students from Archie Stouffer Elementary School were challenged last month to produce original artwork expressing what Minden means to them. Dozens of submissions were sent in, capturing local landmarks like the Rivercone, S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena and the Minden Boardwalk, and attractions such as the Haliburton County Huskies, Minden Ice Races and Haliburton County Fair.

April Austen, a volunteer with the ASES school council, said 21 pieces will be featured in the exhibit, which opens Feb. 10 and runs to March 31. An opening reception will take place Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m., with students invited to discuss their work.

“Haliburton County is a huge artistic community for adults – we thought it was time we bring the kids on board and get them involved too,” Austen said.

She said last year, ASES had a teacher, Meghan Mardus, who made a great impression on students and helped spark an interest in art. While she has since left the school, Austen said she wanted to build on the momentum and encourage students to pursue the arts, no matter their talent level.

She connected with Shannon Kelly, manager of cultural services with Minden township, in October and the pair discussed a student exhibition. Kelly felt it was a great idea and a good way to drive traffic to the downtown gallery during its quiet season.

“We’re always looking for ways to engage with students and youth in the community. Art is a great way to do that. It appeals to all ages. It’s great getting kids involved because all kids are artistic in a way. We told them, you don’t have to be the best, just try to express yourself,” Kelly said.

“What better way to attract people to the gallery than to put up the artwork of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren… we think this has the potential to become a great annual event,” Kelly added.

Austen said the ASES community is buzzing ahead of the exhibit’s opening. There are pieces from all ages – kindergarten and Grade 1 classes each put together a group submission, with 19 other entries from students from Grades 2 to 8.

“The kids are so excited – they had a lot of fun working on their pieces through January, and now they’re excited to see them up on the wall in a real-life gallery and show them off to their family,” Austen said.

Kelly noted the gallery is closed Feb. 6 to 9 so the exhibit can be installed. It will be open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. An open house has been scheduled for Family Day, Feb. 19 from noon to 2 p.m., with hot dogs and chili served by Minden Rotary.