A rainbow of colors, and hundreds of monochromatic shades along the spectrum between black and white, filled the Campus Center at Fairfield University from the canvases, clay and paper of nearly 1,000 pieces of art created by students at all of Fairfield's schools.

Fairfield's 38th annual Townwide Student Art Show featured the simplistic efforts of beginners to the elaborately detailed photo-realistic work of advanced students and everything in between. The works were created in art classes throughout the school year by students from kindergarten through high school.

"As they get older, you can see where they started from to where they are. You can see artists in the making," said Angela Smillie, the mother of Cathy Minto, 11, a fifth-grader at Mill Hill School and one of the student artists from each of the town's public schools.

Smillie was among the more than 500 people who attended a reception Wednesday night to honor the young artists. The exhibit concluded Thursday.

"With this show, you see the potential of what these students have with their artistic abilities," said Elizabeth Huckins, 13, who made a Native American-inspired clay mask of a horse in the exhibit. "I saw some amazing pieces that were so realistic and creative."

Carina Bunn, an eighth-grader at Fairfield Woods Middle School, impressed the viewers twice: first with her colorful two-dimensional mask made with beads and cut paper arranged in patterns, and then with her show-stopping drawing of a ballerina in a graceful pose. The sketch was so realistic that some people mistook it for a photograph.

"The accuracy; that's pretty amazing, and by an eighth grader," said Steve Miserocchi, commenting on Carina's ballet dancer. Miserocchi attended the show to see the painting done by his son Ian, 10, a fifth-grader at McKinley School.

The students' versatility also was on display in pencil sketches, paintings, digital photography and mixed-media entries. Their work included coiled clay creations like Roger Ludlowe Middle School student Mikaylah Grant's peacock pitcher; a bold tempera paint portrait by Zach Varella-Lee, a seventh-grader at Tomlinson Middle School; and Veronica Brundages' close-up detail of a flower, done in acrylic paints.

Also on display was the painting by Holland Hill School fifth-grader Molly Atiencia that was selected as the poster art for this year's art show, and a black-and-white photograph titled "Egg," by Epiphanyblu Diaz, who received a Certificate of Special Recognition Honorable Mention from U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in the 4th District Congressional Art Competition.

Morgan Veasley, 11, a Fairfield Woods Middle School student, said he made "nature pottery." He said his art teacher "had us print pictures of nature on clay plates." He imprinted his with leaves.

"I like what they did with the designs (in clay)," said Michael Hwang, 8, a third-grader at Riverfield School, whose clay bowl was more simplistic in design, but very detailed in its colorful glaze.

Some students made water fountains out of their clay sculptures.

"It's really cool. Some of these paintings are amazing," said first-time participant Riley O'Boyle, 12, a Tomlinson Middle School seventh-grader, who found inspiration by viewing the work of other students.

"Next year, I want to do 2-D art. I want to do an ocean scene," said Riley, who made a zombie mask out of clay for this year's show.

Michele Hermsen, a photography teacher at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, said the philosophy of the art teachers is to enhance the creative abilities of the students so they can develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and transfer those skills to other aspects of their lives.

"This type of venue proves to the public and the other students who don't take creative programs how artistic and creative students from kindergarten to 12th grade can be," she said.

One parent said the show is a real credit to Fairfield's art teachers, one of whom, Peg Merry, was spotlighted. Barbara Pollock, the kindergarten-through-12th-grade art coordinator for the Fairfield public school system, said this year's exhibit was dedicated to the memory of Merry, "a beloved art teacher at Fairfield Warde High School who passed away last summer."