Abstract artist Jackson Pollock once said, "Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."

Abstract artist Jackson Pollock once said, "Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."

Westerville's Music & Art Festival's Youth Exhibit introduced visitors to the community's budding artists in the midst of their self-discovery.

As part of the festival held July 12 and 13, visitors browsed hundreds of photographs, oil paintings, charcoal, sculptures, ceramics, mix media pieces, digital pieces, watercolor, tempera and color pencil artwork submitted by children ages 3 and 18 in the upper floor of the barn in Heritage Park.

Youth participants created pieces depicting nature, human portraits, abstract art and many interpretations on favorite characters from Disney's Frozen.

Mashawn Stroh, co-chairman of the youth exhibit, said this was "one of the best turnouts ever" with 318 registered participants from Westerville, Worthington, Big Walnut and other neighboring communities.

"I think it was a tremendous year for the youth exhibit," Stroh said. "We had incredible participation and a wide variety. It's wonderful."

Participants are divided into and judged by age group: budding artists, elementary, middle school and high school. Each piece can win Best of Show, People's Choice or simply first, second, third or honorable mention in their age group.

Local artists and art teachers judge the submissions and select award winners. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 12, visitors voted for the People's Choice award.

Lydia Stilson, 4, won first and second place for two of her pieces in the budding artist category, for children between 3 and 5 years old.

With the help of her mom, Alyson Amstutz, Stilson used paint, Play-Doh and flower petals for her two pieces.

"My mom helped me and I had fun," Stilson said.

Stroh believes the youth exhibit helps build confidence and encourages young artists to explore art and various techniques.

"It's a wonderful way to showcase their treasure and talents. These pieces mean so much to the kids. To display them is a sense of pride," Stroh said.

Several recent high school graduates who participated in the exhibit are attending various art schools and programs in college. The art show helps students present their work.

"We've got some kids who have been participating in this for years and they are just going on to study art," Stroh said. "I think it's great they are using this as one of their shows."

The exhibit is fun for the parents, too. Amstutz, an aspiring art teacher, enjoyed the youth exhibit and said she was happy for her daughter's success in her category.

"It's a lot of fun and I'm really proud of her," Amstutz said.

This year's growing numbers in all categories gives hope that art will continue to thrive in Westerville and that parents will encourage their children's interest in art.

"If you see your child has an interest or a knack for it, start early and encourage that," Stroh said.

"Just encourage it. There's lot of inexpensive opportunities out there. If the child has an interest, let it bloom and let it grow."