Students Share Magical Moments at Art Exhibit Opening

Student Art

A student’s work of art is displayed as part of the National PTA’s Reflections Program art exhibit at ED’s headquarters.

Magic to Do, the opening number in Pippin, could have been the theme song for the recent opening of the National PTA’s Reflections Program art exhibit at ED’s headquarters.

For nearly half a century, the National PTA has inspired millions of students to become involved in the arts through Reflections, and each year many of the winners are recognized at the Department through its Student Art Exhibit Program. This year’s exhibit includes 65 works by K–12 students from across the country and in U.S. schools abroad on the theme The Magic of a Moment. Writing, dance and film are also showcased in the exhibit.

Student Dancers Before the official ribbon-cutting that opened the exhibit, a capacity audience applauded the artistry of two Reflections competition winners in music and dance. Eighth-grader Bailey Callahan sang and performed on guitar her award-winning composition, The Magic of Moments. Jessica Clay, a high school senior and award winner for dance choreography in the newly created Special Artist Division for students with disabilities, performed her winning dance, Born to Be Somebody, with freshman dancer Kendyl Kokoyama.

The value of both the Reflections program and arts education in America’s schools was affirmed by the guest speakers at the event. Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton welcomed guests to the Department and delivered the important message that arts education matters for “every school and every child.” Art not only tell a child’s personal story, he observed, but it also gives the U.S. a vital leading edge over other nations in “creativity, design, and innovation.”

National PTA President Otha Thornton explained that the PTA’s mission is to engage parents to make sure their students’ education is challenging and rewarding.  And echoing the acting deputy secretary’s observation, Thorton said the arts in education helps “students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills that the core subjects can’t foster alone.”

Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), spoke about the importance of the arts as a tool to solve schools’ performance challenges, using the PCAH Turnaround Arts initiative to illustrate her point.

Click here to learn more about the magical moments shared at the Reflections exhibit opening from the OII home room blog, including photos from the event.

Doug Herbert is a special assistant in the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

North Carolina Art Exhibit Stretches from Mountains to Sea

Ribbon Cutting at Art Exhibit

Student artists cut the ribbon to open the exhibit.

On June 21, the Department welcomed 175 students, family members, and teachers, as the North Carolina Art Education Association (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.

Students playing bluegrass

Liam and Dylan Zink perform bluegrass selections.

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.”

Art work

Jeremiah Horton, far right, stands in front of his painting, “A is for Alligator” accompanied by family members.

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.

NCAEA artistists

NCAEA artists, speakers, and performers.

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

Student Art Transforms Lives and ED

On Oct. 12, young artists from all across the nation convened at the U.S. Department of Education to be honored for their award-winning works of art and writing. The works of more than 50 of the 2012 winners of the 90-year-old Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition—comprising photography, portraiture, multi-media, 3-D work, film, animation, teen writing and game design—are currently exhibited at both the Department of Education and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities headquarters in Washington D.C. The competition is sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.

Ribbon Cutting

Student artists officially open the exhibit by cutting the ribbon.

With eagerness and jubilation, students, families, and teachers arrived at the Department early that Friday morning to participate in workshops on video game design and on best practices in teaching art, to watch the winning films, and to be honored for their artistic achievements. For the Kim family that left New York City at 2 a.m. to travel to the opening, the excitement of coming to Washington D.C. to be honored for a national award took precedence over any fatigue incurred. Eager to experience the festivities of the day, award winner Alex Kim, with his proud father standing by his side, stated, “This has been such a great honor. I can’t express in words what it means to be here right now and be honored by the U.S. Department of Education and Scholastic for something that I created and am so passionate about.”

With the auditorium at ED headquarters filled to capacity, the students received congratulatory remarks by the leaders of the U.S. Department of Education, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, and the National Art Education Association (Read Under Secretary Martha Kanter’s blog about the event). After the last student introduction was completed, the students—filled with excitement and anticipation—marched towards the exit and officially opened the art exhibit by ceremoniously cutting the ribbon. Smiles and laughter abounded as the students filed through the auditorium doors to stand beside their works displayed on the walls, in sculpture boxes, and on TV monitors and Kindles.

Alexandria Bennett, an award winner from Saint Petersburg High School in Saint Petersburg, Fla., stated that the inspiration behind her piece, Johnny from Haiti, was a young Haitian boy she met while on a mission trip to Haiti with her church. Continued correspondence allowed her to develop a friendship with him and to depict his experience through her eyes. Alexandria hopes that her work will inspire others to creatively reflect on and tell about their transformational life experiences. While reflecting on her experience in Haiti and how it inspired her artistically, Alexandria stated, “With many students experiencing hardships in their daily lives, hopefully the arts will help some of them to develop a new perspective on how they believe that the world should be.”

Shannon Levin

Shannon Levin poses for a photo with her portrait, Look at Me Now.

Shannon Levin’s portrait, Look at Me Now, shows a smile that is far from one usually seen.  When asked about the inspiration behind the work, JoAnn Onnembo, Levin’s art teacher from Bergen Academies in Hackensack, N.J., provided the following interpretation: “ Shannon’s art is aiming to stop you in your tracks as it is very colorful […] many times people are judged unfairly for their appearance. Smiles usually draw you in, but this smile will startle you.”

Throughout the ceremony, the young artists and writers were asked to think about how they will use their artistic talents when they embark on their future careers. A few offered ideas about how they believe art transforms life.

“Art gives life a different perspective. It shows how spontaneous life is and how you can’t plan for certain things.” —Aisling Flaherty, The Dalton School, New York, N.Y.

“Art will help people express themselves. In life it is important for people to share what they feel and think.”— Megan Oppenheim, The Mirman School, Los Angeles, Calif.

Click here to view additional photos from the event.

Chareese Ross is an Information Resource Specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach and is on temporary assignment with the Student Art Exhibit Program.

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


ED and Its Art

As I transitioned to the Department of Education from my prior life as a college president, I experienced a concern I had every time I changed positions: I worried that I would lose some of the most important aspects of my prior job.  For example, when I moved from private law practice into a professorship at a law school, I was concerned that I would forget what “real” lawyers did and what “real” clients needed — key information for helping to prepare law students to become quality lawyers.  As I now increasingly focus on higher education policy in DC, I do not want to lose sight of why that policy matters.

Student art

"Environmental Changes" by Kelly Pifer, age 16, a 2011 Scholastic Award winner, is on display at ED headquarters.

The question is simple: How can I stay connected with students while in Washington, linking theory to practice? Little did I realize at first that right here in the windows, walls and halls of the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Department of Education Building, there is a constant reminder of those who depend on our success.

Even before one enters either side of the LBJ building, there are photographs on the outside windows of diverse students of all ages — students learning in classrooms and labs, participating in athletics, and experiencing graduation.

These photographic images, installed in 2008, are repeated on the elevator doors, and on each floor there are photographs of students as one exits the elevators. I know I’m headed in the right direction each day because I see students playing cello. And, at the end of halls on many floors, there are historic, black and white photographs of students and schools; the image of young dancers at the ballet bar on the 6th floor is particularly compelling.


"Untitled" by student Hin Ling, is displayed at ED headquarters

But, the halls have more than photographs.  Starting on the first floor, there is original student art from grades pre-K through professional art school.  There are works, which hang anew each year, created by students who received Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.  This exhibit, now in its ninth year, represents a collaboration among The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and the U.S. Department of Education.

Every two to three months, other student groups display their art on the Maryland Ave. side of the first floor.  Since its inception in 2004, this program has included works from the Native American Student Art Competition, Duke Ellington School for the Arts, the Military Child Education Coalition and the National PTA Reflections Exhibition, among many others. Each exhibit is also accompanied by a public event, with the student artists and their families in attendance, with an added bonus of student performances. The popularity of these temporary exhibits is evidenced by the fact that the exhibit space is booked through 2015!

Student art

"My Sisters' Room" by Munira, age 13, is displayed at ED headquarters

And, then, there is student art on each of the floors — watercolors and collages and acrylics from all parts of the country and from all age groups.  And, schools with vibrant art programs create important engagement for their students.

Even if we are not explicitly paying attention to the art on the walls every day, the student works inform, to use Tony Hiss’ phrase, our experience of place and space.

One of the comments in the Student Art Exhibit Guest Book in the lobby, made by an ED employee about a recent exhibit, expresses gratitude for the experience: “Thank you for bringing such joy and beauty into the Department.”  I would add to that this thought: “And thank you for reminding us of the people served by the important work we do.”

Karen Gross is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary

National PTA and Arne Open Student Art Exhibit at ED

Students perform at the opening of the student art exhibit. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

“A well-rounded curriculum that embraces the arts and humanities is not a luxury but a necessity in the information age,” Secretary Duncan recently wrote. At the Department of Education we know the importance of drama, dance, music, the visual arts, and creative writing, and one way we celebrate student achievement in the arts is by highlighting student art from around the country, including hosting art exhibits at our headquarters.

Last week, Arne joined National PTA President-Elect Otha Thorton to open the National PTA’s Reflections Program student art exhibit at ED. The ceremony included student dance, chorus and string performances. The National PTA’s Reflections Program encourages students to explore their artistic talents, and the exhibit will be on display at ED until March 7.

ED Opens Military Child Art Exhibit

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

“Through art, military-connected children open a little window to tell us how they feel and offer us a glimpse into their world,” said Patricia Shinseki at last week’s opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) Student Art Exhibit at ED headquarters. Shinseki, an MCEC board member, gave the keynote address at the opening, which included the Presentation of the Colors by the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard, a musical performance by Nate Hutchings and a poetry reading by Jaron McKinnon, students from the teen center in Ft. Meade, Md.

Nate Hutchings a student from the teen center in Ft. Meade, Md., performs at the exhibit opening. (Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams)

MCEC is an international organization that identifies, brings awareness to and implements solutions to meet the challenges the highly mobile military child faces. ED’s newest exhibit includes artwork and writing from K–12 students living on military bases around the world, featuring a range of themes, such as globalization, familial love, loneliness, fear and patriotism. Military child and artist Kayla Rausch explained that “Art is my passion and a way of showing myself to others. Being in the Army is like being part of a huge family and I’m proud to be part of it.”

The opening was organized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program, under the direction of the Office of Communications and Outreach and the Office of Innovation and Improvement. The program features student art to honor teachers and students in a highly public space and to demonstrate art as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. For more information on ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program, please contact Jacquelyn Zimmermann at

Lydia Jun and Jasna Rodulfa are interns in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the Department of Education.