Patio tables complete with umbrellas and comfortable chairs stand next to each other in a row. Across from them, a wall is lined with a glass case of beautiful art work created by professional artists.
Is it a quaint sidewalk cafe? A high-class art musuem? To the contrary, it's Storm Lake High School and what art teacher Anita Coon calls the 'Garden Cafe Gallery.'
Students at SLHS are treated to this kind of atmosphere every day and don't have to leave the surroundings of their school to experience it.
They can gather in the patio table-laden Student Center, catch up with friends, have something to drink and browse the collection of art work before their eyes.
This month students are getting an especially nice treat, as the work featured in the gallery comes compliments of local artists. Since it is still early in the school year, the high school students haven't had time to complete any art projects, so they solicited the help of local artists to fill up the gallery.
Coon says that getting the local artists to display their work in the school is great for all students, not just those taking art classes.
"It brings a nice aesthetic into the building," she said. "It's good exposure for the students to the visual arts. Artmaking is an expression of things that can't be said in words - it transcends language. It's important for the student body to understand and be exposed to that."
Right now the gallery is featuring the work of local artists Mary Mello-Nee, Connie Herron, Cherie Courter, Dennis Dykema, David Boelter, Ron Netten and Coon. There is a wide spectrum of art on display, including mixed media, paintings, ceramics and sculpture.
The display was set up on Aug. 19 and will be up through the end of September. By then the students will have had time to complete their own projects and will take over the gallery for the rest of the school year. Their works will be displayed for about a month as well.
"It's a really good way to aim the kids toward the direction of the level of work we'd like to see," Coon said. "Our goal is not only to show them that there are working artists in the area, but give them a level of quality to shoot for."
If times allows, Coon said she would also like to get the students out to visit some of the local artists' studios, to give them an even better look at the art they're crafting.