Rose Olvera walked with her granddaughter Mia down the Art Squared hallway that led to an art exhibit featuring work by students from all four Independence School District middle schools – Bridger, Bingham, Nowlin and Pioneer Ridge.

As they got closer to the exhibit, Rose’s eyes grew wide with excitement a smile appeared on her face.

There was her granddaughter’s piece of art – a marking-pen-and-crayon piece displaying the elements life (flower petals), air (clouds) and fire (an erupting volcano).

“We have a lot of artists in our family,” the proud grandmother said, “and it looks like we have another one with Mia. It looks like she is going to pursue her dream of being an artist, and it is so wonderful and inspiring to see her work here with the other students in a real art gallery.”

The students’ art be on display at Art Squared, 111 N. Main St. on the Square, open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m, through May 4.

“I think the teachers and the people at Art Squared know what it means to these students to have their art displayed in a real gallery,” said Anthony Olvera, Mia’s father. “You look around and see a lot of proud students and their families, and it’s cool.”

“I love showing my art and talking about it,” said Mia, who also had some of her art on display at Art Squared last year. “You just feel proud to have people look at your artwork. To have it here in a gallery is like a dream come true for me.”

Bridger student Sophia Barlag echoed that.

“I love to draw, and it’s fun to be able to say that my art is in a gallery and people can come in and see it,” Sophia said. “I’ve really been looking forward to coming to tonight and having my family and everyone see my art.”

Sophia created a textured landscape of purples, soft blues and greens that, she said, “make you feel relaxed when you look at it. At least, I hope they feel relaxed because that was the type of art I was hoping to create.”

Her father, Todd, nodded in agreement.

“I did a lot of art from ninth grade up when I was in school,” Todd said, “and when I look at these middle school artists I am just amazed. They are all so good, and so creative.”

Marcia Pugh, a co-founder of Art Squared, savored every moment of Wednesday’s grand opening.

“Our young artists just get better and better every year,” Pugh said. “I look at this art and know that one day, they will be featured in our galleries when they are older.”

Standing near the doorway, the students’ teachers greeted parents and talked about their classes.

“I retire in 31 days, and this is the perfect way to retire, my last hurrah,” Pioneer Ridge art teacher Faith Zimmerman said. “I love to see the looks on the parents’ and students’ faces as they go back to the exhibit and then the huge smiles when they leave. That is so special.”

All the teachers praised Pugh and Art Squared for offering their students this opportunity.

“Lots of big smiles today,” Nowlin’s Shannon Bown said. “To have their art displayed in a gallery is really special, and Art Squared makes that happen for our students.”

Bridger’s Jill Fields added, “A lot of kids never have the chance to exhibit their art, and here, in one gallery, you can see all their art and see what great young artists we have in Independence. This is one of my favorite parts of my jobs, to see the parents’ and families’ reaction the their children’s art.”

Bingham’s Sarah Perez simply enjoys standing back and watching the different reactions from students and their families.

“A lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and I love it,” Perez said. “You can see their confidence grow as they show off their art and talk about what it represents.”