HMK artist Tenney Cook poses with a self portrait ahead of the school's Arts Extravaganza. [Photo courtesy of Bruce Hucko]

If you’ve ever visited a respected art museum, chances are you’ve seen a casual observer glance at a famous painting, and then hear him lament, “My kid could paint that.”

It’s meant to be dismissive, but Pablo Picasso himself would view it as the highest of compliments. After all, he regarded children as among the most gifted and creative artists out there.

Helen M. Knight Elementary School Art Coach Bruce Hucko certainly shares Picasso’s views, and he wants everyone else to see that talent for themselves.

The school will be showing off the latest works by the newest generation of local artists at its annual Arts Extravaganza, which returns this Friday, March 27, just ahead of HMK’s spring break.

The free event, which is open to the public, will highlight students’ accomplishments in the visual and performing arts.

From 8:30 to 10:15 a.m., visitors are invited to wander the hallways and go from room to room to check out the latest artwork, as well as the school’s ever-expanding collection of curated art.

“We consider every classroom and every hallway to be a gallery or a studio,” Hucko said.

The exhibits will feature “fresh” artwork from Hucko’s students, who recently donated 46 original, signed prints, as well as two original printing plates, for the extravaganza. Students in Mrs. Camps’ sixth-grade class also made their own glue-line prints, with designs based on Egyptian and Mesopotamian art.

“If you haven’t been in the halls of HMK to see the wonderful work that kids produce, it’s there,” Hucko said.

In addition to the focus on students’ artwork, the school will be hosting exhibits of staff and parents’ art throughout the day. Community artists Chad Niehaus, Hannah Hinchman, Daniel Johnson, Peggy Harty and Victoria Fugit will also be showing their work from 8:30 to 10:15 a.m.

Niehaus, for one, will be making linoleum block prints and a huge strand of prayer flags in front of HMK’s kindergarten through third grade office.

To make the low-tech prints, he transfers pencil drawings to linoleum blocks, and then carves and inks the linoleum. He places the inked blocks face-down on the printing surface, and walks on the blocks, using his body weight as a printing press.

His prayer flags are made with old sheets from WabiSabi.

When he isn’t working on his art projects at the school, Niehaus will be serving as a fashion judge.

To celebrate the extravaganza, Hucko is encouraging students, parents and teachers to dress up in their favorite style of art, or as their favorite artist.

The awards that Niehaus and others hand out could ultimately go to those who display the most outrageous show of stripes, demonstrate the best use of color, or show up as the best René Magritte lookalike, for instance.

“So everyone will walk away a winner,” Hucko said.

In the afternoon, the extravaganza’s focus will shift from the visual arts to the performing arts.

HMK music teacher Joleen Porter is putting together a series of afternoon performances that are set to begin at 1:30 p.m. Third-graders will be performing a butterfly dance, while fifth-graders will be putting on a “colonial readers” play set to music.

Throughout the day, the school will also be holding a silent auction of artwork; proceeds help benefit HMK’s arts program.

“That just helps us buy quality art supplies,” Hucko said.

Over the years, students have put those supplies to good use. Today, HMK’s curated Red Rock Art Collection includes more than 80 matted and framed paintings by young artists.

Niehaus, whose son attends kindergarten at HMK, said the collection is a “really neat” forum for students to demonstrate their creativity.

“For me as an artist, it was one of the huge things that stood out to me when we were doing the tour,” he said. “It shows the proper respect and context for the things these students are making.”

As far as Hucko knows, the collection is the only one of its kind in the state.

“I’ve never heard of one that has their own curated art collection,” he said. “People need to come see that, because it represents all the work we’ve done over the year.”

HMK Arts Extravaganza returns on March 27

“We consider every classroom and every hallway to be a gallery or a studio.”

When: Friday, March 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Where: HMK Elementary, 505 N. MiVida Drive

Cost: Free; some artwork will be available to purchase

For more information, email Hucko at