History of the AHSAE

6th Place 2019 "Heat Signatures" (detail)

Chloe Wills

North Gwinnett High School 

Karen Campbell instructor

AHSAE is an exhibition evolved from the "High School Art Exhibit" in the early 1970's Atlanta Arts Festival (known by many locals as the Piedmont Park Arts Festival), a two week celebration in the center of town.  The high school exhibit went through a few transitions including "Visual Vibes."  In 1999 Cheryl Myrbo envisioned a broader scope for the growing exhibit, bringing in arts center and museum sponsors from all over the region during the next 18 years.  Today AHSAE award winners earn opportunities to enhance their training and hone new skills in numerous Georgia (and Nashville, Tennessee) arts centers and on college campuses.  Myrbo retired from the AHSAE in 2017 and Becky Raffalovich, Director, continues the tradition of setting high standards for the AHSAE.

AHSAE Testimonials

2018 random quotes:

“This exhibit is amazing! I love seeing work from so many school. Thanks for putting it together!”

“Great Show-Thanks for all this work organizing and assembling this exhibit. Thanks to the students, teachers and all who pulled this event together. Excellent!”-Martha Cook

“So hopeful for our future “The first time at the festival and I love this set-up to view nice artwork.”

“As an art school graduate and professional designer, I was blown away by the talent of these students! What an inspiring show!”

“So hopeful for our future to see so many creative souls at an early age, with such incredible work!”- A. F., 58

“The Art in this exhibit is gorgeous. It really shows what we teens can do when we summon our creativity. I love it all.”

“I always enjoy this exhibit. It is my first stop every time I come.”

“Wow! I am so impressed with everything in here. So looking forward to seeing what your generation can do. Thank you.”

“Incredible! Worth coming from England for! P.S. I am from Oxford and Ashton Cameron does a very good likeness! I Loved Imani Davis’ work too.”

“Wonderful exhibit with beautiful & talented artwork!”

“Excellent!! Much enjoyed!”

“I love all of the different aesthetics and stories behind all the art work! Beautiful art overall.”

“We really enjoyed the quality of the students work.”

“Love this so much! Amazing talent!”

“Amazing! I hope they all continue down this path, I look forward to seeing future work.”

“It would be nice if each entry received a poster. Very nice that they get a shirt. Very Impressive. Thank you.”

“Thank you so much for the t-shirts for all of the kids!!! This is such an awesome addition to such an amazing exhibit. I would also love to have had the opportunity to also purchase a show poster early (teacher) THANK YOU.”

"Well, what can you say? It seems like every year the choices get harder and harder because each year there is more truly excellent work to judge. It is hard to say exactly why this is but it sure is a pleasure to see so much fantastic art from these talented young people. That said, there were more than a few pieces in the offing this year that might have been shoo-ins a few years ago, but the fact is that the competition is really heating up! It's as simple as that.
It was an honor to participate as a juror this year and I can honestly say that our entire community should have a lot of pride in the fact that we are able to nurture and recognize talented young artists and help them so well to unleash their potential. I only wish there was more room in the show!
--Paul Light Jr., SCAD Summer 

Seminar, Chastain Arts Center, 2016 AHSAE Judge

"This years entries showed a surprising depth of maturity and range of techniques. This was my first year to judge and I was very impressed."
--Michael West, Director Photography Department, Portfolio Center, 2016 AHSAE Judge

"The AHSAE is one that our students have come to look forward to each and every year. Our students are involved in many community, state, regional and national exhibits, but the prestigious AHSAE is one that they know will provide them opportunities in our community and the city of Atlanta that no other exhibit can provide. The show is expertly juried each year and students and art educators know that the best of the best will be exhibited and, on top of that, the top dozen pieces are then selected and exhibited throughout the state for several weeks so this competitive student event is a true win/win!"
--Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT North Gwinnett High School - Visual Art Department Chair NAHS Co-Sponsor, 2015 

"This was my first year working with the AHSAE. During my time as an admissions representative at The Art Institute of Atlanta, I'd seen the exhibit inour gallery and always admired the work of such talented high school students. This year I had the privilege of working alongside Cheryl Myrbo to coordinate not only the artists' reception, but to also incorporate an Art Throwdown competition. Visitors to our campus were amazed at the level of skill and creativity of these young artists, and for any out-of-town guests it provided a natural invitation to visit again for the annual Dogwood Festival. The exhibit then pointed to both the talent of our local students and the cultural focus on the arts that Atlanta celebrates. I look forward to seeing next year's work from the AHSAE once again at The Art Institute of Atlanta!"
--Michael Panyard, Assistant Director of Admissions, Art Institute of Atlanta, 2014 

"Thank you so much for all of your work, this show was such an amazing experience for me!"
--Claire Armstrong, 2014 Best of Show artist, Roswell High School 

It was exciting to see the talent and passion alive in these high school students. It was a really difficult judging experience because there were so many strong pieces. I tried to stick to what was being asked of them for each drawing exercise as I was selecting "winners." I found it really inspiring to be around these kids watching them work. I also really enjoyed encouraging many students to keep going and to not be discouraged if they didn't get chosen for a "prize."
--Jes Gordon, Throwdown judge 2014 

"... I recently participated in the Atlanta High School Drawing Throwdown. When I was there you gave me a MOCA membership. I just wanted to thank you again!! I went yesterday to turn in the form and saw the Shara Hughes paintings. I was really inspired by the work, and I think the membership is going to be really beneficial to my studies as a growing artist! Thank you so much, I really appreciate it!"
--Cassie Gallagher, Milton High School, Art Institute of Atlanta Throwdown-x artist 2014 

"Thanks everyone for a successful day yesterday. I can't repeat this enough of how impressed I was by the young artists. . .not only for their incredible artwork, but for their poise and professionalism on camera. Their passion for their art was quite clear. It was inspiring to hear them talk of their work.
--Bill Murray, Art Institute of Atlanta, after CBS filming in gallery, 2013 

"My daughter Madison Bass-Taylor and myself would like to thank you for the opportunity you have given to participate in the high school art show at the Dogwood Festival. My daughter goes to Woodward Academy and graduates this year. For her to be a part of the Dogwood show her senior year is so wonderful and will certainly be a feather in her cap for college. We are aware of the work involved doing a show of this scale and want you to know your efforts are appreciated."
--Beverly Bass and Madison Bass-Taylor, Woodward Academy 2013


"Thank you for taking the time print and hang Esperanza's artist statement. I think she is going to sell a print to someone who saw her work there, and now she's interested in pursuing photography as a career! Really, the experience seems like somewhat of a game-changer for her; and she's had a tough year, so it means a lot."
--Stephanie Routier, Roswell High School instructor, 2013 

"We are so appreciative of all that you do. You inspire and encourage our young artists to be the best that they can be. You motivate and help bring out the best in them with your much appreciated incentives. Thanks a million!!"
--Teri Duperon, Tri-Cities High School parent, 2012


"You put together a wonderful and diverse student show. We went to the show because our daughter had a ceramic piece in it. We all meandered through the dogwood festival to find the exhibit. Our teenage son was not very excited about going until we reached the show. We got back to the car and he talked about all the pieces, his favorite was a painting of a boy trapped in the hood. We came to support our daughter but were pleasantly surprised by our sons interest and enthusiasm towards the students work! Thank you for giving our daughter a venue and our son a peeked interest! The arts are an amazing spiritual journey for all!! Thank you for all of your hard work."
--Julie Oster, Roswell High School parent, 2012


"My daughter's experience in the AHSAE at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival has been a highlight of her entire high school experience...Winning the Best in Show award has validated her sense of herself as an artist. In particular, the travelling exhibition that went from the Art Institute of Atlanta, to SCAD, to Oglethorpe University, and then American Intercontinental University helped her realize the breadth of the art educational world and the wider community of artists and designers. The "Meet the Artist" events were eye-opening occasions that introduced her to individuals and institutions that appreciate and nurture artistic expression at a level heretofore unknown to her. There was a moment at Oglethorpe University, in one of the best viewing galleries in Atlanta, where we saw her self-portrait displayed in the midst of a Matisse exhibit. The juxtaposition generated a sense of both humility and exhilarating potential that overwhelmed us both. Thanks to you and the Atlanta Dogwood Festival for the vision, dedication, and hard work that made that incredible afternoon a reality."
--Nancy Yarnell, Westminster School parent, 2010 

"One of my students won best of show back around 1999 or 2000. It was his first art class and first real validation and encouragement as he didn't get much support from home regarding his art. He moved that summer and I lost touch with him, but recently reconnected online and found out that he had gone on to attend RISD and is a working artist in NYC now. I think that being in the exhibit that year helped him to see he should take his art seriously."
--Dianne Bush, South Gwinnett High School instructor, 2011 

"It's truly been an honor to be part of this entire experience, and I'm eternally grateful for all of your efforts and help in making it all possible!! A couple months ago I would have never thought to have my worked displayed in universities, on TV, or at the dogwood festival!!!
The overall event has inspired me greatly as an artist, and fueled my passion for art in my theme of works."
--Mikhail Khoury, Second Place, Atlanta International School, 2011