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The Glen Park Arts Festival in the Village of Williamsville had been missing just one thing: student artwork. After the first year of the festival, co-founder Sharon Rich had the idea to create a high school division for the festival.

“It was her hope to promote young and talented artists in the Town of Amherst,” said Tony Vitiello, adviser of the high school division planning committee. The next year, the Glen Park Arts Festival included a section devoted solely to high school artists.

Rachael Thomeer, a senior at Williamsville South High School and a member of the high school division planning committee, values the new division because “it’s focused on us as students.”

In past years there has been an array of student artwork represented: everything from paintings to candles and pottery. Also, at the festival, “students can sell their art,” said Rachael, who shows and sells her wood burnings and glass mosaics. Rachael says making art with the intention of selling it has “improved (her) craft.” She said that there is a sense of affirmation for young artists when people buy their art.

The committee for the high school art division, which includes several high school students from area schools, is an integral part of the festival. Rachael said that at the planning meetings, “We provide reports on the high school committee and we give our input.”

On the day of the event, committee members like Rachael and Gina Nasca, a 2013 graduate of Williamsville South, set up tables and chairs, communicate with student vendors, and help run the event.

Students on the committee are “part of every part of the process,” Rachael said. “We take care of anything” student vendors need.

Last year, Morgan Cicero, a sophomore at Williamsville South, was a contributing artist; she showed her polymer clay pieces. Morgan enjoyed her experience in the high school division so much that she wanted to get involved with the planning in order “to help it continue for years,” she said.

The future of the high school division looks promising. “Adding the high school division has attracted more people” to the art festival, which started as a group of five vendors, said Vitiello, adding, “The high school division is an art show in and of itself.”

The high school division also partners with Autism Services, an agency committed to aiding autistic people (friendsofasi.org/about). At the festival, Gina sells cards and paintings made in Autism Services programs, and the money from the sales in turn funds more of Autism Services’ programs.

Participating in the festival “gives you a better sense of community because it brings everyone together,” Gina said.

The Glen Park Arts Festival provides “a good chance for students to get their names or their work out there,” said Vitiello. Last year’s high school division featured 11 student artists from three area high schools. This year the committee is looking to expand its student artist population. Interested students can apply online at gpafhighschool.wix.com/arts. The deadline to apply is June 20. Students must be in high school, entering high school in the fall, or graduating high school this spring to apply. Participation is free for high school students.

This year’s event – July 26-27 – will mark the fourth year of the inclusion of the high school division.

“We are a demographic that is not always represented at these kinds of events, so it’s nice to have this opportunity,” Rachael said.

Kaelyn Timmins is a senior at Williamsville South High School.