On June 21, the Department welcomed 175 students, family members, and teachers, as the (NCAEA) opened its student art exhibit. For many of the guests, their day began before dawn as they boarded a bus in the mountains of North Carolina headed to the nation’s capital. The bus then worked its way towards the coast, giving added meaning to the exhibit’s title, “Artful Expressions: From the Mountains to the Sea.” The exhibit, which runs through July, features one student work from each of the 60 K–12, public and private North Carolina schools, as selected by the students’ NCAEA-member teachers.
The event was preceded by a guest reception with a performance by flautist Anna Peterson, music teacher at Yadkinville Elementary School. One guest, a staffer from U.S. Representative David Price’s office, congratulated Isabella Kron, a graduating senior at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh. Kron, whose self-portrait was on display and who will be attending William & Mary College in the fall, said that it was an honor to have her work — a piece from her AP Studio Art portfolio — chosen as she had spent a great deal of time and effort on her art this past school year.
When discussing their art, the students had many themes in common. Several of the artists said that art was their favorite subject, and they liked seeing the final results of all their hard work. Natalie Jones, a first-grader from East Robeson Primary School in Lumberton and artist of the piece “Home,” said she liked “making new stuff.” “Musical Reflection” artist, Maisy Meakin, an 11th-grader, said she likes “making things look real.” Jeremiah Horton, kindergartner from Eastern Elementary School in Greenville, said his painting, “A is for Alligator,” blended his “favorite colors” to create an eye-catching piece.
It was an exciting experience for the students, many of whom had not been to D.C. before, to see their art hanging on the walls of a federal building. One of these students, Samuel Rezac, a fifth-grade artist from Pine Elementary School, said that he may want to be an art teacher one day. Caleb Forbes, a 10th-grader from Mitchell High School in Bakersville, spoke of plans to pursue art, in some form, in college.
During the ceremony, several distinguished speakers shared their thoughts on the importance of the arts in schools. In her welcome remarks, Laurie Calvert, teacher liaison at the Department of Education and former English teacher from North Carolina, spoke of the importance of keeping the arts in schools and of the Department supporting that goal. Calvert said, “Thank you to the students and teachers, because your work inspires us every time we pass it and it reminds us why we’re here: We are here for you and we need to continually be about that. So, thank you so much for providing that jump — we need to keep it going.” Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership, echoed that sentiment, saying, “The young artists and performers … along with their teachers and their families are a testament to why it is so important to ensure that a complete and competitive education includes the arts for every young person in America.”
Penny Freeland, art teacher at Forbush Middle School, and Codi Alyssa Brindle, a recently graduated student from Hobbton High School who hopes to study art education or art therapy, reminded participants that art is all around us, woven into the fabric of our society. Freeland told of turn-of-the-century snowflake photographer Wilson Bentley’s influential work. Relating his story to today’s young artists, Freeland said; “The things that you are learning, and doing, and sharing in the arts can impact people for over a hundred years. You never know what you are doing today or what you will do in your future that may be that awesome and that beautiful, so I encourage you to continue to pursue your passion in the arts, to continue to pass a heritage of the arts to our next generation.” In her speech, Brindle mirrored Freeland’s sentiment that art influences everything and gave as an example her experience teaching art to special needs children, which helped them to communicate better.
The opening also featured five student performances. Three violinists, brothers Liam (who also has a piece in the exhibit) and Dylan Zink from Brevard Elementary School, and Cherrie Yoon from St. Peter’s School in Greenville performed both classical and bluegrass music. Two pianists from Liberty Prep Christian Academy in Mooresville, first-grader Max Adair and fourth-grader Caden Mather, each played standard solo pieces, including a series of the blues tunes. Dancer Jodie Coble, a first-grader from Tanglewood Elementary in Lumberton, performed a patriotic dance with ribbon-twirling to the song “American Kid” by Go Fish.
In closing, NCAEA President Sandra Williams recognized each student in the exhibit individually as she called them to the stage. She told them that their art touches each individual on a personal level and allows each person to “see the world in new perspectives.” And with that, the crowd of artists, along with the rest of the large audience there to honor them, assembled for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to officially open this superb collection of art from the classrooms of North Carolina.
Nicole Carinci is a management & program analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach and member of the Student Art Exhibit Program team.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at 202-401-0762 or at email@example.com