County art stu­dents put tal­ents on dis­play

Lo­cal stu­dents com­pete in 2017 Seven Up Art Show

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­ Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

The art­work is hung, the sculp­tures are on dis­play and the judges are ready to pick a win­ner of the Seven Up Art Show in Charles County.

Art teach­ers with Charles County Pub­lic Schools re­cently put on dis­play var­i­ous art- work by their stu­dents in prepa­ra­tion for a Jan. 29 judg­ing at Mat­ta­woman Creek Art Cen­ter in Mar­bury. On that Sun­day, fam­ily, friends, lo­cal dig­ni­taries and state del­e­gates will get to meet all of the win­ners and par­tic­i­pants in the art com­pe­ti­tion.

Bar­bara Stepura, chair of the Seven Up Art Show, said peo­ple can ex­pect more of the same — and bet­ter — at this year’s show. She be­lieves the teach­ers are key to the stu­dents’ cre­ativ­ity and the fact that the art show keeps get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.

“Pre­pare to be wowed be­cause this is the best of the best,” Stepura said. “All are judged on a high school level and ev­ery stu­dent who hangs here should be proud that they’ve been se­lected to hang in a pro­fes­sional gallery. Al­though art fund­ing has de­creased and the Mat­ta­woman Creek Art Cen­ter has lost money this year, art is still an im­por­tant part of the com­mu­nity. Stud­ies show com­mu­ni­ties that have a thriv­ing art pres­ence are bet­ter com­mu­ni­ties in terms of the econ­omy.”

The Seven Up Art Show is a highly-an­tic­i­pated art event in Charles County, spon­sored by the Mat­ta­woman Creek Art Cen­ter and the Ki­wa­nis Clubs. This year, 120 stu­dents from all seven high schools have art pieces on dis­play at the cen­ter within Small­wood State Park. They will re­ceive cer- tifi­cates and awards for their work. An in­de­pen­dent judge se­lects win­ners in each of sev­eral cat­e­gories for prize money and ac­co­lades.

“Hope­fully peo­ple make an emo­tional con­nec­tion to their work,” said Ja- son Churchill, vis­ual arts teacher at Thomas Stone High School. “The stu­dents re­ally learn to hone in on their skills and sink them­selves into their pieces. There’s a lot more artis­tic cul­ture in Charles County than peo­ple give it credit for. There’s a lot of youth­ful tal­ent and the teach­ers are very proud.”

Each year do­na­tions and con­tri­bu­tions are used as mone­tary gifts to the stu­dents who win first, sec­ond and third place in each of six judg- ing cat­e­gories: paint­ing, draw­ing, two-di­men­sional and three-di­men­sional art, pho­tog­ra­phy, dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy and com- puter gen­er­ated art, and mixed me­dia cat­e­gories.

Bryan Don­ahue, chair of the art de­part­ment at Henry E. Lackey High School, has eight stu­dents who sub­mit­ted their dark room pho­tog- ra­phy to the an­nual com- pe­ti­tion. One of his fa­vor- ite photo sub­mis­sions is that of his stu­dent Mack- en­zie Martin, 15, a sopho­more at Lackey. She sub­mit­ted a photo of her dog, Wil­son, look­ing out a win­dow.

“I thought the pic­ture would look cool and I’ve been al­ways into art and draw­ing. I wanted to switch up and do pho­tog- ra­phy and it has been fun to do. I’m proud of my­self — to see that my pic­ture is get­ting at­ten­tion and is in the com­pe­ti­tion,” Mar- tin said.

“This is the top show for the stu­dents to par- tic­i­pate in ev­ery year,” Don­ahue said. “They put a lot of work into it and they have a lot of tal­ent. Dark room pho­tog­ra­phy is ex­pen­sive, but the kids like it — and when they see their pic­ture, it’s their very own art.”

Josh Het­tel, head of the de­part­ment of vis­ual arts at La Plata High School, said his fa­vorite piece of work is “Sur­veil­lance” by se­nior Ben­jamin But­ler, 17, which is an oil paint- ing that con­veys sur­re­al­ism, sym­bolic im­agery and jux­ta­po­si­tion within the im­age.

“I just like to paint very re­al­is­tic por­traits of peo­ple and strange dis­con­nected things in the pic­ture. I hope peo­ple see that al­though I’m just in high school I am able to cre­ate com­posed art- work that looks al­most pro­fes­sional. My goal is al­ways to cre­ate work that stands out to oth­ers, that the eye is al­ways drawn to,” But­ler said.

“They formed their own style, find­ing out what they like and ap­pre­ci­ate; what they are try­ing to get out to the com­mu­nity. It’s a show that is all about them — mo­ti­vat­ing them to cre­ate new pieces and try,” said Leith Phillips, art teacher at St. Charles High School.

Chi­som Ojukwu and Chi­nazam Ojukwu, 17, stu­dents at Mau­rice J. McDonough High School, are iden­ti­cal twins orig­i­nally from Nige­ria. The pair sub­mit­ted sev­eral pieces into the art show. Both sis­ters have been draw­ing com­mis­sioned pieces since they were in ele­men­tary school. They said art teach­ers like Kristina Blakeslee have helped their work progress.

“Art is some­thing that I’ve al­ways loved. In art classes, the teach­ers push the stu­dents to get bet­ter at their art­work. In Charles County I think it’s good for stu­dents to have an out­let — mu­sic, draw­ing, vis­ual arts and build­ing it,” Chi­som said. “Some places don’t have art classes like this to ex­press their cre­ativ­ity so I’m glad Charles County has made art a re­ally big deal here.”

Chi­nazam has pre­vi­ously won first place at the Seven Up art show — an ac­co­lade she re­ceived two years in a row.

“Ever yone is so fo­cused on spor ts and schools put so much money to­wards ath­let­ics when there are things like mu­sic and art avail­able. We have to be al­lowed to be cre­ative,” Chi­nazam said.

Ti­mothy Bo­damer, con­tent spe­cial­ist for the Fine and Per­form­ing Arts at Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, said peo­ple are go­ing to be pleas­antly sur­prised at the cal­iber of this high school art show. He said the nu­mer­ous works show how the stu­dents’ imag­i­na­tions run — whether po­lit­i­cally in­spired, or just dis­play­ing dif­fer­ent emo­tions — but there is a clair­voy­ant ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art from the en­tire county.


A col­ored pen­cil draw­ing ti­tled “Splish Splash” by Chi­som Ojukwu, 17, a se­nior at Mau­rice J. McDonough High School, sub­mit­ted into the Seven Up Art Show at Mat­ta­woman Creek Art Cen­ter.

An acrylic paint­ing ti­tled “Sur­veil­lance” was sub­mit­ted to the Seven Up Art Show by La Plata High School se­nior Ben­jamin But­ler, 17.

This year, many art stu­dents in Charles County Pub­lic Schools have two-di­men­sional art pieces on dis­play in the Seven Up Art Show at Mat­ta­woman Creek Art Cen­ter in Small­wood State Park.

Bar­bara Stepura, chair of the Seven Up Art Show, helps to hang art­work for the Seven Up Art Show at the Mat­ta­woman Creek Art Cen­ter on Jan. 18.

Charles County Pub­lic Schools stu­dents sub­mit­ted a to­tal of 120 works of art into this year’s Seven Up Art Show. The pieces will be judged Jan. 29 at the Mat­ta­woman Creek Art Cen­ter.

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