First Friday Art Walk has spawned an offspring: Junior Art Walk, debuting tonight at Ashland's First United Methodist Church.

First Friday Art Walk has spawned an offspring: Junior Art Walk, debuting tonight at Ashland's First United Methodist Church.

The church's newly created Gradient Gallery will show watercolors of peacock feathers, cutouts of quilt squares, drawings of night skies and self-portraits created by kindergarten through fifth grade students at Walker Elementary School.

"We wanted to get kids' artwork in First Friday Art Walk, because a gallery like this didn't exist in Ashland," said Carol Heisel, gallery chairperson. "Now people are going to be able to see what the kids can do."

Many of the student artists will be on hand to answer questions during the opening reception of the Art Walk-er Junior exhibit, held between 5 and 8 p.m. at 175 N. Main St.

"From what I've heard from the teachers, the kids are very excited to have their work hung in a gallery," Heisel said. "It's totally different than hanging it in the classroom or holding a show at the school, because more people get to see it."

The exhibit will be on display for the next three weeks during regular church hours, roughly between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

The gallery has applied to become an associate member of the Ashland Gallery Association, which would make its participation in the art walk official. Heisel plans to display art by different students each month, eventually having a show for each elementary school in Ashland, as well as the middle and high schools.

Heisel, a fabric artist and retired Eagle Point teacher, is hoping to show work by Helman Elementary School students next month.

"I became interested in art as a teacher, after I saw what it did for children," she said. "It can help kids find their path."

She hopes the gallery also can find ways to raise money for art in the schools, perhaps by selling greeting cards featuring student work. All donations will go back to the classrooms to buy art supplies or pay for art teachers, Heisel said.

"We want to make it so the students' work contributes to the art program at their school," she said.

Dorita Borgerson, church outreach minister, decided she wanted to showcase student art after learning that budget cuts have trimmed arts programs at Ashland schools.

"With so many things being cut, we wanted to encourage art in children and remind the community that we have kids and that kids love art," she said.

In the coming months the gallery also hopes to hold concerts during the art walk featuring student musicians.

"Our goal is to make the lives of young people better and to build their potential for growth, and art is a part of that," Borgerson said.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering or donating to the gallery can call the church at 541-482-3647.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.