The 2023 Youth Art Expo Debuts At The Betsy Lueke Creative Arts Center

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(Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

On Thursday, April 6, and Friday, April 7, the 2023 Youth Art Expo was unveiled at the Betsy Lueke Creative Arts Center with two vibrant opening receptions.

The eye-catching art on display was created by Burbank students and young residents whose school grades range from transitional kindergarten to grade 12. “Deep Dive Into Art” is the theme of the expo, which is being held by the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department in partnership with the Burbank Fine Arts Federation. 

Paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs are featured in the collection, with many artists having produced recreations of a variety of sea animals, from whales, to seahorses, to octopuses and more. The subject of sea animals was suggested by organizers of the expo, which serves as “a representation of how students can blossom when presented with an opportunity and proper encouragement,” per a press release from the City of Burbank. 

(Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

Thursday’s reception celebrated the art made by children in grades 6 through 12, while Friday’s gathering was hosted for those in TK through the fifth grade. On both Thursday and Friday, awards were given out at around 6 p.m. 17 accolades were offered: one Best in Show title for each grade, a three-dimensional award for TK through the fifth grade, and photography and three-dimensional awards for grades 6 through 12.

One award-winning piece of art is a stunningly realistic self-portrait by an eighth grade student of Dolores Huerta Middle School who has only been painting since June 2022. Another is an impressive drawing by a seventh grader of John Muir Middle School depicting various scenes from the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things.” In addition, a second grade student’s standout painting shows a vivid likeness of whales swimming in the ocean at sunset with a rainbow falling in the background.

A total of nearly 1,600 compositions were submitted in hopes of being included in the expo. From these applications, just over 200 works of art were welcomed for the showing at Betsy Lueke. One of the toughest parts of the process for Parks and Recreation Department staff members was choosing between the art designed by many talented candidates.

“Everything is so amazing,” City of Burbank Senior Recreation Leader Cody McKenna said. “Unfortunately, we’re very limited with the space we have. We got 1,594 submissions. Narrowing it down to 221 was not easy.”

(Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

McKenna noted that he and his colleagues value how the annual Youth Art Expo allows children to convey their emotions through healthy and productive mediums. 

“There are so many not constructive ways that young people can express themselves, and I think if they have a constructive way like this, creating art, no matter what it is — it could be music, could be painting, could be theater, anything — we all think that’s really important,” McKenna said. 

When reflecting on the reactions of the artists who received individual recognitions, McKenna detailed, “It was very rewarding to see all of the kids have such a good time accepting their awards,” before adding, “It was really cool to see the smiles on their faces.”

Virginia Causton-Keene, who is the director of the Betsy Lueke Creative Arts Center, says putting the expo together was a months-long process. This entailed several steps such as sending information out to local schools, communicating with teachers, as well as matting the collection of paintings by TK through fifth grade pupils in preparation for the presentation. As the artists and their family members and friends assembled at the center to show their support on Friday, Causton-Keene became emotional over the festive occasion honoring the next generation of creatives. 

“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” Causton-Keene said of the event. “It brings tears to my eyes. It’s so exciting. It’s so wonderful because who knows where this will go for them? … It’s fantastic. To be able to see your art in a gallery setting is special, I think. It just makes me cry.”


The 2023 Youth Art Expo is available for viewing through April 21. To learn more about the exhibit and the Betsy Lueke Creative Arts Center, visit its page on the City of Burbank site here.