Students from all grade levels and nearly every school in the South-Western City School District displayed their work Jan. 10 at the district's Council of PTAs Reflections Art Show.

A total of 363 students participated in the annual showcase held at Harmon Elementary School.

"It's a chance for students to take what they've learned in art class and have a more open-ended freeform outlet for their creativity," said Carolyn Chaffins, chairwoman of South-Western's Reflections program. "Our art teachers do such a wonderful job of instilling an interest in art in our students."

Reflections is a national PTA program with a mission of encouraging students to explore their creativity and self-expression, Chaffins said.

"I've been involved with the Reflections program for eight years, and I'm always amazed at the quality of work our students submit," she said.

The program offers encouragement for students who may not display a natural talent or enthusiasm for art, said Joy Metzger, Council of PTAs president.

"It's like a student who doesn't like science but still participates in a science fair," she said. "It's something that gives them a little push and maybe they find they're more interested in art than they thought."

Students submitted works in visual arts, music, literature, dance and photography. Unlike in recent years, the largest number of entries for this year's show were in literature, Chaffins said.

"Most years, it's the visual arts that dominate," she said. "I don't know why there's a change this year. Perhaps it's cyclical."

This year's theme, "Heroes Around Me," also may have lent itself more to writing than drawings or photographs, Chaffins said.

"A lot of the written pieces were about personal events that happened to the students," she said. "They wanted to tell about real people who have had an impact on them or maybe even saved them from harm."

A panel of judges reviewed each entry and 60 students will have their submissions forwarded to the state competition, Chaffins said.

District awards will be presented March 19 at Pleasant View Middle School.

Danika Carlsen, a second-grader at Darbydale Elementary School, drew a picture of a special hero: her grandfather.

"I wanted to draw him because he saved my life," Danika said, although it was not directly.

"He was in the Army, so he saved my life, and everybody else's, by protecting our country," Danika said.

Drawing pictures is fun, she said.

"I like being able to draw something that I think up," Danika said.

Danika's mother, Kim, said her daughter frequently takes up crayons and paper at home.

"She spends a lot of time coloring pictures," she said.

Ryder Anderson was excited to have people view his drawing he created using pencil, he said, and it's an experience he hopes to have many more times in his life.

"I've been interested in drawing ever since I can remember," Ryder said. "I definitely want to be an artist when I grow up. I want to be an artist who works in all kinds of styles. I always like trying something new."

A fourth-grader at J.C. Sommer Elementary School, Ryder's drawing pays tribute to his third-grade teacher, Danna Lotz.

"She's really important to me," he said. "I was having trouble with math and she helped me so much. She's such a good teacher."

The picture depicts Lotz in her classroom, Ryder said.

The walls are slightly shaded and he created the effect using a new technique he picked up, he said.

"I scribbled some pencil lines in one corner of the picture, then used my thumb to drag it over the walls," Ryder said. "It's a technique I've seen other artists use."