While this week is the final push to get their show up and running, art students at Burke County High School have been preparing for the moment all year.
This Saturday, May 4, students in Stan Dodson’s AP studio class will present their work during a special show beginning at noon at the Professional Teaching Center located next to the high school.
Dodson defines the class as a comprehensive investigation of drawing and design principles; a class that culminates with a portfolio consisting of three parts – concentration, breadth and quality – that is evaluated by the college board for a pass or fail grade.
The process is lengthy and thought-provoking and, to some, nerve-racking, and each area shows different sides to the students who compile them. Students are required to upload 24 works, which are divided in half to form the concentration and breadth elements, and then must mail five pieces to the board in Salt Lake City so that judges can determine their use of detail, technique and fine drawing/design skills.
“Often I get asked about the level and intensity of the class and the counter-benefits to taking such a rigorous class,” Dodson says. “Many ask, ‘Why would a student want to take such a class?’ The class offers an opportunity for students to be fully engrossed in self-development and reflective learning. While most students will not be going on to become professional artists, the benefits of the class extend far beyond becoming better artists, but help to build better people.”
Sophie Dye had never taken formal art classes prior to this school year, and even though she never learned the basics, the sophomore has a passion for art that seems timeless.
“The reason I decided to take the AP art class was because I wanted to be surrounded by people who wanted to be there, to be good. In whatever I do, I want it to have purpose, and I want it to have meaning in the future. This art class has definitely given me a different outlook on the world and has, in my opinion, made me a better person, as well as a better artist.”
To her teacher, Sophie was a sponge. “She soaked up and took in all the resources I gave her,” Dodson says. “She was hungry for knowledge and receptive to feedback and constructive criticism.”
He says it didn’t take long before she made the art room her home as she embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Her pieces are based on the central theme of expectations. “I feel as if I have an overwhelming amount of expectations placed on me in my everyday life so art is a great place for me to convey my feelings. A lot of my pieces show symbolism for the expectations. An example is when I did a piece on a drum set, which symbolizes the ‘noise’ that I hear when the expectations become too much. Almost all of my pieces have the colors red and black because I feel as if those are the best colors to represent the things I feel, such as stress, anger and doubt. In some other pieces, I use red string to symbolize the attachment that I have to these expectations.”
For BCHS Class of 2019 valedictorian Rose Durant, art has helped her become a happier person while also showing her that her dreams are not too far-fetched.
“Last year, I was a very, very cynical person,” she recalls. “I hated everybody and everything. Mr. Dodson called me out and said I needed to think positively. So I set out in the most cynical way possible to do that. I started wearing ‘Life is Good’ shirts, but eventually irony turned sincere. I started adopting it and feeling it in my heart.”
At space camp, Rose realized her positive mindset felt really good; art had seeped into her world and she began to construct works about growth, especially her struggles as a senior trying to decide what to do after graduation. “I felt torn between a realistic career and a job that made money, and my over-arching dream of being in space,” she says, displaying a piece with an astronaut. “This is about allowing myself to have high hopes and goals and dreams, regardless of how unrealistic or juvenile they may seem.”
While Rose will enter the University of Georgia in the fall, going right into her studies to be a mechanical engineer, her classmate Ariel Stevens is heading to Flagler College, a private institute in St. Augustine, Fla., where she plans to study art and graphic design. Saturday marks Ariel’s second AP show, and having one under her belt has made her more excited than nervous about this year’s presentation. Flipping through her works, Ariel says she first began painting as a little girl with her grandmother. “I’ve always had art in my life. I can’t imagine what it would be like without it,” she smiles, adding that her pieces this year are about the struggles with body image.
Along the way, Dodson believes his students do actually become better people through art. “The students explore a variety of themes, ones that help shape them as people and help them develop a greater sense of empathy, compassion and awareness.”
Sophie agrees, adding that she is ending the school year with more insight. “You learn from art how to be true to yourself,” she says. “I was such a different person from the beginning of the class to who I am now. I think it has to do with the connection that you have to your artwork along with your concentration topic. It gives you a different perspective on the real world and what more you could do as an individual.”
What: BCHS AP Art Show
When: Saturday, May 4, from 12-2 p.m.
Where: The Teaching Learning Center
Who: Works from Candace Allen, Briceton Blackburn, Victoria Cash, Morgan Chancey, Terry Davis, Rose Durant, Sophie Dye, Daevon Givens, Victory Givens, Ayshia Griffin, Jordan Lamberth, Tori Martin, Maisey Norton, Antwan Robinson, Chloe Smith, Me’Kiala Stephens and Ariel Stevens.
This story first appeared in The True Citizen.