Students put artistic talents on display

May. 19, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

As school districts all around the country fight cuts to arts education, students and parents mingled with art teachers and school administrators during Lee County Schools’ 20th Cultural Arts Day on Saturday.

The event was held at Southern Lee High School and, according to multiple art teachers and others at the event, was a resounding success due in part to the location. The event had never been held at Southern Lee before, but praise was in no short supply for principal Bonnie Almond for donating the use of the facilities.

“I’ve been in Lee County 14 years, and this is the best venue we’ve had,” Broadway Elementary School art teacher Wendy Bryant Motley said. “The best turnout, too.”

Jody Stouffer, art teacher at Lee County High School, said Saturday’s event — which featured work from 13 of the county’s 16 public schools — is as good way for students and teachers to see how their peers at other schools are doing, almost like a standardized test.“We don’t have an EOC (End Of Course state test) for art,” he said. “But this is almost like that for us.”

Students were probably thankful they weren’t actually being tested on Saturday, although there was still some competition. The high school art teachers judged the middle school submissions and named the top three in a variety of categories; the elementary and middle school teachers did the same for the high school submissions. At the elementary school level, everyone was a winner.

There was also a People’s Choice award that allowed the crowd to vote using cell phones, and Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive bestowed her own first place and honorable mention awards.

SanLee Middle School art teacher Ellen Duncan said all of her students did great work, although she bragged specifically on eighth-grader Tabitha Bray, whose abstract, tessellated piece drawn in markers won first place from both Olive and the high school teachers. Duncan said she enjoyed seeing her class’s work on display, but the fourth-year teacher was also excited to see how some of her old students are doing at the high school level.

“It’s great seeing their art,” she said. “They were all really good when I had them, and they’ve continued to grow. I tell all the other teachers to come out, too, and to see what their former students can do.”

One new artist, 6-year-old Ava Rodgers, said she was excited to see her own work — a rainbow fish — on display in the large hall at the high school. The kindergartener at B.T. Bullock Elementary School said her favorite thing about art is being able to add the details that make a simple outline come to life.

“I like when it’s just black, and lines, and you put the colors in,” she said.

Arts education doesn’t include just learning to paint or sculpt, though. Another facet — music — was also on display Saturday as bands and orchestras from East Lee Middle School and Lee County High School entertained the crowd with a mix of jazz, classical and popular music.