Best of best displayed in student art show

Kile Brewer
Posted 4/25/18

ORANGE PARK – Over the weekend dozens of young Clay County artists reached a goal that some artists never realize – a public exhibition of their talent.

Students from all grade levels were …

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Best of best displayed in student art show


ORANGE PARK – Over the weekend dozens of young Clay County artists reached a goal that some artists never realize – a public exhibition of their talent.

Students from all grade levels were given the opportunity to display their work in front of hundreds of members of the public during the annual Clay County Art Show at Orange Park Mall.

The pieces that hung in both the JC Penney and Belk wings of the mall were created over the course of the entire school year and chosen by the teachers for matting and display on their respective schools’ display boards.

“We’ve taken the best of the best. If you put some of this work next to the work of professional artists you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s who,” said Michael Green, Fleming Island High School art teacher. “You can’t beat this venue as far as the public seeing it.”

Green and other high school and junior high teachers selected works in multiple media – everything from oil paintings to more involved mixed media pieces and sculpture – for display in the wing that contained work by older kids. On display you could see a one inch by one-inch realistic painting of a pencil nearing its last sharpening, or large human body parts created from a roll of clear packing tape.

Friday evening marked the opening reception, with students gathering to take photos with their friends and their work, as well as their family members seeing what their student had been up to all year.

“It means a lot to the families,” Green said. “The students have never seen their artwork together [with the work of students from other schools] before and they like to see what other people are doing.”

Before opening night, judges make their way through the exhibition and select their first, second, and third place winners as well as honorable mentions in the judges’ area of expertise. Judges are selected by the teachers and the group is usually made up of local professional artists, art instructors from universities and colleges and people who own art shops and galleries. Judging this year’s printmaking category was Ryan Long, a friend of Green’s who owns the Liquid Edge print shop.

“I’m looking for the prints that stand out above the rest, specifically in detail, application and clarity of the printing,” Long said. “[Some of the prints] have so much depth and detail, you can see the time it took. It’s cool to see kids making this level of prints at this age, they have so much potential based on what they're doing now.”

On the other side of the mall, the art is much less serious, but the projects are just as impressive and most are being completed by students who had little to no experience with creative expression before the start of the school year. Teachers select a handful of students to represent each of the projects completed throughout the year, with the best examples from all students in kindergarten through sixth grade represented in the show.

“For students who don’t feel very artistic, it means so much to have this confirmation of their work and it’s very inspiring and motivating for them to know that their work represents a good example of this project,” said Rhonda Wilson-Williams, art teacher at S. Bryan Jennings Elementary. “Everyone is so excited to come tonight. Even my students who don’t have work in the show have asked me ‘Can I come to see my friends and just hang out?’”

Wilson-Williams also noted the positive effect and importance of Superintendent Addison Davis’ push to put art back in every elementary school in Clay County.

“You have to lay the foundation,” she said. “They can’t do the harder stuff [in high school and junior high] if they haven’t had that exposure in earlier grades.”

She teaches students about the opportunities that artists have in the modern era, including careers such as graphic design and brand marketing for large corporations, not just painting and drawing. She hopes to get kids interested in art and helping them understand that it could be a lucrative career and to erase the stigma that art is just an elective in high school that fulfills an educational requirement.


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