Art covers the walls as the Salem Art Association prepares for the opening of its annual Young Artists Showcase on March 6, 2020 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

For the next month, Salem Art Association’s upstairs gallery will be covered floor to ceiling with hundreds of paintings, drawings, sculptures and more.

It’s the association’s annual Young Artists Showcase, which displays works from students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties.

“It’s the highlight of the year for me,” said gallery manager David Wilson.

Unlike most art exhibitions, there’s no unifying medium, style or subject matter. Schools that choose to participate get a set amount of space, and all artwork submitted goes on display.

Some students’ submissions draw on works of classical art, popular culture, or both, as in the case of one young artist who inserted Batman into a night sky scene inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

There are photographs, paintings, crayon drawings, multimedia pieces and a giant portrait of Abraham Lincoln created from pieces of a repurposed history book.

In short, no matter your artistic preferences, you’re likely to find something you enjoy.

Wilson said this year’s exhibition includes more collaborative pieces where classrooms or schools teamed up on a single piece. Schirle Elementary School teachers and students submitted a large four-paneled piece showing a collage of green, blue and purple hands reaching toward a person. “You Matter” is written in various places across the canvas.

“It kind of shows you the power that art can have. It incorporates everyone,” Wilson said.

Schirle Elementary School students and teachers teamed up on a large piece of art on display at the 2020 Salem Art Association Young Artists Showcase, opening March 6. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

For student artists, it’s often their first chance to see their work on display for a wider audience.

“The kids bring their family and friends back repeatedly,” said Erin Westfall, the art association’s marketing coordinator.

The exhibit opened Friday and a reception will be held Saturday, March 7 from 12-3 p.m. Artwork is on display at the gallery, 600 Mission St SE, through April 18. Admission is free.

Awards for the artwork will be revealed at the Saturday event.

Each of the exhibit’s sponsors – Maps Credit Union, Bob and Marypat Hill, the Salem Sunrise Rotary Club and the Larry & Jeanette Epping Family Foundation – picks their favorite piece of art.

Mayor Chuck Bennett also selects a winner, and community artists come in to award first, second and third place prizes for elementary, middle and high school-aged artists, Wilson said.

“It allows their creativity to shine,” he said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander at [email protected] or 503-575-1241.