The Littlest Masters – Youth Arts Takes Center Stage at the Dunedin Fine Art Center

When the Kokolakis Family Youth Gallery was dedicated in 2010 at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, a tradition of cultivating and celebrating the creative energies of Pinellas County students was elevated to a new level. The Creative stART show, on exhibit through January 22, is the beautifully observable proof.


Sun, Moon, Love – by Seanna Seebarran, grade 5


Hundreds of visual art submissions were made by talented students aged kindergarten through grade 5 from participating Pinellas County schools for the exhibit – shown in two phases. The first phase, showing now through December 11, includes Pinellas County students with last names beginning with A through M.

The second phase, showcasing K-5 students with names N through Z, begins on December 21 and runs through January 22, 2021. 

In a process utilizing real world arts metrics, a panel of four teachers instituted four-point, research-based evaluation criteria in judging work for inclusion. Those student works scoring a perfect “4” points were automatically included in the exhibit. Student works scoring a “3” were further evaluated by youth education staff from the Dunedin Fine Art Center. In the end, 72 pieces were honored with placement in each phase of Creative stART.


Texture Macaw – by Vera Clark-Beard, grade 4 (Nathan Beard‘s daughter!)


Todd Still, director of youth education, has been with the Dunedin Fine Art Center since before the Kokolakis Family Youth Gallery became a reality. “It’s incredibly satisfying to see the pride on the students’ faces. Here, their work is treated with every bit of importance as it would be for adult artists in established galleries. 

“This is a real gallery, with professional framing, lighting and judging. It’s so gratifying to have a fully developed program dedicated to youth art.”

Recently, awards ceremonies were held for the first phase, precautions in place, both at the gallery and online. Student excellence was evaluated by the DFAC curatorial staff and the youth education department to award three Honorable Mentions and three Artist Merit awards. Three were awarded live on site and three awarded virtually. 

The six awards were presented by Visual Arts Specialist (pre-K through 12) for Pinellas County, Jonathan Ogle. “It’s been such an exciting time here, despite the obvious limitations,” says Ogle. “The talent of these young students is something to be so proud of.” 

You can watch the ceremony here.



Partnerships and collaboration have been an important part of what makes shows like this possible.

Pinellas County Schools, the Pinellas County School Board and the Pinellas Arts Education Association (PAEA) were all involved in facilitating and supporting Creative stART. Art teachers from PAEA raised funds for scholarships and awards for the students. “Recognition and encouragement are so important,” says Still. “True collaborative partnerships like these and, in particular the ongoing one we have with the Pinellas County school system are very much appreciated here at DFAC. The benefits for all really shine.” 

Still adds, “we’re excited to be able to showcase student work for the public to see. Before Covid, we could expect over 200 attendees to participate for each ceremony – many who didn’t know that the Dunedin Fine Art Center was here! We look forward to having those live presentations again soon.”

In addition to the award recognition and ceremony, all Creative stART artists get free admission to the Children’s Hands On Museum and they can register for a youth class offered at DFAC for member rates. 


Mexican Folk Art Owl – by Raigan Zaborowicz, grade 1


“Moving forward into the Spring, the Kokolakis Family Youth Gallery will host a show exhibiting the work of Pinellas County High School students beginning in February and another featuring the work of Middle School students beginning in March.”

Find out more about the Creative stART exhibit here. 


For more information on current
and upcoming shows, and classes
Dunedin Fine Arts Center
1143 Michigan Blvd.
Dunedin FL 34698


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