DENVER - The first day of the 25th Annual Cherry Creek Arts Festival included dozens of kids in blue shirts exploring the street-side artist tents with a purpose.
They weren't on a scavenger hunt. Students from 24 Colorado schools were buying art. They were serious about finding the right piece and had $500 to spend.
Since 2001, the Janus Student Art Buying program has arranged for youngsters to buy 644 pieces of art for their schools. An estimated $220,000 has been spent on those art purchases over the years.
After Friday's buying spree, the number of total pieces has taken a nice jump.
"We're able to give kids exposure to art where they may not have it in their schools," Janus' Kim Blakenburg said.
Janus has been a sponsor of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival from the very beginning and decided it was time to do something when art education programs were being reduced or cut in local schools.
This year, 36 schools applied to take part in the art buying program - only 24 were picked.
Three students from each school spent the first day of the festival spending $500 on a single piece of art or a collection of pieces.
Before the kids arrived at the festival, they received an art curriculum that helped them understand and appreciate art. The entire student body is encouraged to work together in figuring out what kind of art would best fit their school.
"Our school is very diverse," student buyer Amos Mills, 12, said.
"I think everybody would be happy if we got a piece of art that showed diversity," student buyer Alex Song, 12, said.
"They could be looking something kid-like and whimsical but instead, they're thinking about all the kids and would be beautiful in our school that everyone could enjoy," the boys' art teacher, Andrean Andrus said.
These schools were chosen for this year's Janus Student Art Buying Program:
- Arapahoe Campus, Boulder
- Aurora Central High School, Aurora
- Belleview Elementary, Greenwood Village
- Cherokee Trail High School, Aurora
- Classical Academy at Indigo Ranch
- Colorado Springs Cory Elementary School
- Denver Denver Christian Schools
- Lakewood Denver School of the Arts
- Denver East High School
- Denver Fox Ridge Middle School
- Aurora Graland Country Day School
- Denver Grant Beacon Middle School
- Denver Hemphill Middle School
- Strasburg Homestead Elementary School
- Centennial International School of Denver
- Denver Manhattan Middle School
- Boulder North High School
- Denver Omar D. Blair Charter Scohol
- Denver Sabin World Elementary School
- Denver Sheridan High School
- Denver Stukey Elementary
- Northglenn Denver Waldorf School
- Denver West General Academy
- Denver Whittier ECE-8 School
Any and all schools in Colorado are encouraged to apply for the Janus Student Art Buying Program.
The 24 schools selected are chosen based on what students have written in essays about why arts education is important to their school.
Those schools not selected still receive an art-related gift from Janus.
"It's more than just an art show, people are showing you what they care about and what they feel," art buyer Christopher Song, 12, said.
At the end of their art-buying day, Song, his brother and classmate showed off what they chose for their school in a gallery-type setting in front of a panel of art experts.
"This is a big learning experience for us," Song said.
"Having the kids here, talking to the artist, seeing their artwork, seeing where they're from, hearing about all of their experience is a 'once in a lifetime,' art teacher Andrean Andrus said.
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is open through Sunday, July 5. There are 260 artists from all over the country who made it in to this juried arts festival.
(© 2015 KUSA)