By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – Art Harvest is a student exhibition and fundraiser that was started last year by Big Sky artist and Ophir parent Liz McCrae. A partnership with the Bozeman nonprofit ArtSplot, which currently provides the elementary school’s only regular art education, the Art Harvest exhibit and sale will take place Nov. 9 from 5-7 p.m. in the Ophir School library.

Chelsea and Richard Smith, the founders of ArtSplot, bring a range of art programming to grades K-8 in approximately a dozen Montana schools annually.

At Ophir, where ArtSplot has been providing art education for more than a decade, the Smiths are in the classrooms every Tuesday and Wednesday, which allows them to spend time with every K-5 student each week.

“[The Smiths] have been an integral part of Art Harvest,” McCrae said. “Both in developing the ideas for the art projects we will display and sell, and in carrying them out to produce beautiful work on the part of the students.”

But the students aren’t just drawing pretty pictures, McCrae said. The educational component involves studying ancient masters and contemporary regional artists, and developing technique in a variety of mediums.

McCrae came up with the idea of Art Harvest to help fund the district’s art programming and ensure students have access to means of creative expression in the school.

“In a town where we celebrate all these beautiful things outdoors, and sports and a healthy lifestyle, the kids who are really talented artists are not celebrated,” McCrae said. “Art Harvest is an evening dedicated to celebrating these kids’ art.”

Not surprisingly, the Smiths are also stalwart believers in the importance of art education in the schools.

“The place the visual arts have in a child’s education has many facets,” Chelsea Smith said. “Art education increases knowledge, develops critical thinking, demonstrates large and small differences, builds personal and human development, and brightens our days.”

A dozen of the strongest student pieces created for Art Harvest will be framed and displayed. In addition to the original works, gift cards printed with the imagery will also be for sale at the Nov. 9 event.