77 students show off artistic talent at Booth exhibition

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Some of Bartow County’s most talented art students already have an accomplishment under their belts that many older artists have yet to achieve — having their artwork hang in a Smithsonian-affiliated museum.

This year, 77 young artists from 10 county, city and private schools have their work on display in the fourth annual Middle and High Schools Art Exhibition in the Booth Western Art Museum’s Borderlands Gallery through Sunday, April 14. 

Middle and high school art teachers in the county selected a number of pieces that represent the wide variety of art media their students are exposed to throughout the school year. 

“The Booth Western Art Museum prides itself on its support of educators and students, which includes involvement in community arts,” Education Programs Coordinator Mersia Martin said. “By displaying local student art, it is our hope that these young artists will be inspired to continue their hard work and recognize how important their contribution is to the fine arts community.”

The exhibit features 81 works of art — 57 2-D and 24 3-D — done in a variety of media, including pencil drawings, paintings, digital art, pen-and-ink renderings, ceramic pieces, book art, paper collage, prints, mixed media and a wearable dragon puppet, by young artists at Adairsville Middle and High, Cass Middle and High, Cartersville Middle and High, Excel Christian Academy, South Central Middle and Woodland Middle and High.

“Staff at the Booth Museum always look forward to our Middle and High School Art Exhibit,” Martin said. “This year, we all agree that this is one of the best middle and high school exhibits we have ever displayed. It is exciting to see the talent coming up through the school system. Many of the students on display are soon-to-be rising stars in the art world, and we get the opportunity to show them here first.”

South Central art teacher Aubrey Berg has had students’ work displayed in the exhibit since it started in 2016.

“I have chosen to participate in the Booth exhibit since they first began inviting the middle schools to participate because I feel that it’s a wonderful way to highlight the work that we are doing in our classrooms and give these students encouragement,” she said. “How many adults can say they’ve had a piece in a museum, let alone a museum of the magnitude of the Booth?”

Courtney Vest, visual arts teacher at Cartersville Middle, chose to participate in the exhibit to show her students how art is “an important factor in our world and in education.”

“Art is multifaceted,” she said. “I feel art basics are cross-cultural, cross-industrial as well as cross-curricular. Art can open one’s mind up to think creatively about problem-solving, develop fine-motor skills in this ever-increasing digital world and teach patience and progress in either an individual work or with developing skills over time. These students, and several others, are true ambassadors of hard work and craftsmanship. I want them to know the importance of developing these skills in life, and I hope the merit of being chosen as a participant furthers the development of those skills in not just these students but to all of our students.”

She also said being in the exhibit was a “huge honor for these students and also our school.” 

Berg chose seven pieces — drawings, paintings, a papier-mâché mask and an interactive piece — from seven students from all three grade levels to hang in this year’s exhibit.

“I chose pieces in which I saw each of these students pushing themselves to achieve at a higher level than the project before,” she said. “They aren’t satisfied with mediocre. They want to learn and improve their skill set. I have to admire that.”

Even though many of them don’t plan to pursue an art career, the arts still “teach so much,” Berg said.

“They teach decision-making and perseverance,” she said. “When something doesn’t turn out the way they plan, students have to use problem-solving skills to decide what to do next. These students don’t see failure as an option.”

In fact, her students’ work “show creative thinking and problem-solving skills,” Berg said.

“It shows craftsmanship and attention to detail,” she said. “These students who I’ve chosen to display care about their work. They take artistic risks and think things through. They plan out their ideas and follow them through to completion.”

Vest chose nine works in colored pencil, soft pastel, graphite and sculpture from nine students — two eighth-graders, two seventh-graders and five sixth-graders — for the show. 

“I have over 200 students each semester,” she said. “That is a huge pool to pull from. To pull only nine was a grueling process. My final selection was based on real-world skills such as classroom etiquette, time management, originality, craftsmanship and hard work.”

The art teacher said she is pleased with the pieces her students produced because the works “embody diligence and persistence.”

“It is truly fascinating to give a lesson with examples to a class and to have that one student get it,” she said. “They are able to stay within the constraints of a project, but then they go further. They explore and expand what was given to them and produce amazing work. The other students notice it; I notice it; and I hope the community will notice it as well.”

For one of Vest’s students, seventh-grader Ailee England, being selected for a Booth art exhibit wasn’t new. 

“It’s actually like my second time,” she said at the opening reception Thursday night. “I had my art up here in elementary school. It’s pretty cool.”

The 13-year-old, whose piece is titled “Twilight Shadows,” said art is a fun hobby for her. 

“I’ve always been gifted in art,” she said. 

Cartersville High senior Kessani Barefoot said having her work, “Strings Attached,” on display at the Booth is “interesting.”

“It’s never happened before,” she said. 

The 17-year-old art student said the idea for her piece came from a monochromatic painting of actress Helena Bonham Carter that she found on Pinterest, “and I thought that would be cool.”

“I’ve always wanted to do a mixed media with newspapers so I got an X-acto blade and cut the pieces out of the newspaper and then Mod-Podged them on,” she said. “Then I put that on this cardboard right here and glued that on, and then I got a needle and thread and weaved the strings.”

Kiconco Bassler, an eighth-grader at Woodland Middle, used a photo of singer Taylor Swift and the gridded drawing style of artist Chuck Close to create her drawing titled “Swift Inspired by Close.”

“It’s kind of cool [to see her work in the museum] because I’ve never seen it here before,” the 13-year-old said.

The artists, their families and their art teachers were honored at an opening reception Thursday night.

“A reception allows us to celebrate the accomplishments of local art students and their mentors,” Martin said. “Artists and their families are able to enjoy a reception with food provided by the museum and are given the chance to explore our permanent collection and temporary exhibits.”

Martin also is looking for the exhibit to once again be popular among its patrons. 

“Our guests truly enjoy the Middle and High School Art Exhibit,” she said. “It is a treat for them to see the hard work of these artists and to get a glimpse into the art programs of Bartow County and Cartersville City schools. The exhibit has only been up for [a few] days, but I’ve already heard guests commenting on the impressive talent displayed.”

The museum at 501 Museum Drive in Cartersville is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and is closed Mondays.

Admission — plus tax – is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 65 and older, $9 for students and free for children 12 and younger who are accompanied by a parent or guardian, Booth Museum members and active military personnel with ID. 

For information, call 770-387-1300 or visit boothmuseum.org.