South Charlotte

Student art honored in Washington D.C.

Education leaders in Washington D.C. are getting a taste of artwork created by students from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The U.S. Department of Education held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early May to kick off the "Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Student Art Exhibit," featuring 70 pieces of artwork created by CMS students, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Many of the student artists are from schools in south Charlotte.

The diverse exhibit will remain open through the end of June. There are drawings, self-portraits, glass and textiles art, collages, paintings in watercolor and acrylic, photography and even a multimedia display.

It was standing room only on opening night, and this event generated the biggest turnout since the Department of Education started hosting exhibits eight years ago, said Jackye Zimmermann, the director of editorial policy, publications and Student Art Exhibit Program for the department.

Keynote speakers were Rachel Goslins, executive director for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities; Ann Clark, chief academic officer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; and U.S. Rep. Mel Watts (D-NC).

A number of national education leaders and local arts supporters attended the event, as well as CMS teachers and officials.

The Arts & Science Council covered student artists' travel expenses.

In a time of major budget cutbacks, the exhibit is a great way to emphasize what the arts bring to the table, said Cheryl Maney, the Pre K-12 Visual Arts and Dance curriculum specialist for CMS.

"It was an honor for us to be nationally recognized for our program," said Maney.

Zimmermann said the exhibit's reception has been terrific since the opening night.

"We're really honored to have this group here," said Zimmermann. "(The artwork) is just marvelous. I get calls all the time from employees who say, 'This work is unbelievable. Can I buy it?'"

Zimmermann also said a number of employees have commented on the event invitation, which featured an elephant drawing by Katelyn Morgan of Myers Park High School.

Education leaders, teachers and students also saw the strength of the performance arts program in CMS.

Myers Park's String Ensemble, Camerata, performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and so did the dance group from Francis Bradley Middle School in Huntersville, which was recently named the region's representative in First Lady Michelle Obama's health initiative, "Let's Move!"

The Francis Bradley Middle dance group also will be featured in the nationwide "Let's Move! Flash Dance" choreographed by recording artist and fashion designer Beyoncé Knowles.

On opening night, Providence High School sophomore Halley Freger stood by her self-portrait made from torn magazine pages, answering questions from attendees. She said the best part of the trip and ceremony was being around other student artists.

"It's neat to see art traveling...seeing all the places it has been and all the people who've seen it," said Freger. "It's nice to see people continuing to support the arts even though the programs are struggling."