Hesston High School has not had a shortage of things to celebrate within its halls in recent years, from accomplishments on the field, in the classroom and seemingly everywhere in between. However, one teacher saw at least one area that was lacking and decided to do something about it.

"I've just seen that we haven't done much with our arts," said Hesston High School art teacher Shelly Hageman. "We're really strong in sports, music, robotics and lots of things, but we haven't really tapped into the interests of the kids as far as the visual arts."

New to the building last year (though not the community, with three of her children having attended Hesston schools), Hageman approached high school principal Ty Rhodes with the idea to start an art club. Rhodes officially brought that proposal before the school board this year, with the group officially approving the formation of the club — starting in the 2018-2019 school year — in April.

Potential members met this week to discuss the structure of the art club and elect officers, with Hageman noting a turnout of nearly 30 kids who will meet at least once a month to work on club projects next school year. Hageman will open her room up to students after school — and later, for those participating in sports — for an hour and half to facilitate the meeting and work of the art club.

As club sponsor, Hageman noted she has several ideas for projects the students could choose to take on — from building bird houses to decorating Christmas ornaments to painting pumpkins — but she said the final authority will rest with the club members in the creative outlets they choose to pursue each month.

Membership will be open to any Hesston High School student and Hageman sees it being a draw for students who may not be able to enroll in art classes, as well as those who may want fewer boundaries than those they have to conform to in a standard class.

"The kids have more freedom and it's more of a group sort of thing rather than an individual sort of thing. It's more about relationships and fun," Hageman said of the club.

Building relationships is one of the main goals of the art club, according to Hageman, with that focus on the group over individuals. On top of that, the art club will be coming together to do some community service enhancements (i.e. painting murals) as well — requests that Hageman noted there are plenty of currently.

While there will be no cost to join the club, a number of fundraisers are being planned (i.e. selling bird houses, decorating bowls for a chili feed, etc.) to help provide supplies, though Hageman said there is good community support for the arts as well.

Seeing the focus on art in other area schools, Hageman saw no reason why Hesston couldn't become one of those schools and in starting the art club she hopes that attitude will rub off, as well as just being a way to keep students engaged.

"I think the more kids are involved in school in extracurricular activities, the better they do," Hageman said. "I think it's the relationships that they make that keep 'em interested in school because there's a lot of hard stuff in school, so I think it's OK to have some fun stuff."

Having such an opportunity has clearly piqued the students' interest as well.

Junior Mikayla Valdez noted she has seen Hageman's passion for teaching art and is glad to know there will be an additional outlet for students to pursue that same passion next year.

"I heard a lot of excitement, especially from the kids who don't play sports. This is really a time to shine for the other talents that aren't always seen as much in the school. For sure, everyone's so excited about it and something new to try," Valdez said. "I know it's gonna be a good year and we're really hoping to do cool things."

"We're just trying to add more art in our community," Hageman said, "and I just think it'll make our community better."