Mothers and fathers with children in tow turned out in force to admire art, music, theatre, and dance performances at the Shelby County School's 7th annual ArtsFest, held at Colonial Middle School on Saturday, April 2.
During my visit, I listen as Jayden Meehan, a seventh grader at Kate Bond Middle School, plays a beautiful piano solo. His talent is impressive. When I ask his mother if he takes lessons, she replies, “We don’t have a piano at home. He just plays what he learns at school.” When I ask Jayden if he plans to continue, he answers enthusiastically, “Yes!”
Later, I’m admiring a colorful drawing of a rooster when I meet the Martinez family, whose daughter, Marisol, is a first grader at Macon-Hall Elementary. Her father Felimon tells me his daughter has been drawing since she could grasp a pencil. At Macon-Hall, her talent is being fostered and he is proud.
Marisol, with her father Felimon, mother Griselda, and 9-year-old brother, Javier.
Marisol’s picture is one of more than 600 pieces of art on display and the range of work is vast. As I look on, I hear parents periodically talking about the paintings and drawings with their children. Around me, students file in and out of the main auditorium carrying violins, trumpets, guitars, and drums as they play and dance for eager audiences.
The Community Arts Project gave visitors a chance to paint timpani drums and glockenspiel bars, which will be re-purposed into planters and wind chimes for the Board of Education building.
ArtsFest is a chance for everyone to shine.
SCS Fine Arts Advisor Dru Davison says the value of an arts education isn’t just learning the mechanics of how to draw or sing or dance but the “soft skills” students develop, too.
“It’s about learning collaboration, innovation, precision” he says, “It's about creating something only they can do. Those are powerful tools for a child to gain.”
Dawn Weaver, an art teacher at Shady Grove Elementary School, eagerly waits for her son Carter to perform with the Overton Ovation, the high school’s commercial band. As they sing a Michael Jackson number, Weaver tells me Carter's been playing music since elementary school, and has steadily progressed on piano, cello, and bass.
In addition to teaching art, Weaver functions as a teacher mentor, working with new art teachers each week, help them sharpen lesson plans and classroom management skills. The importance of the arts is clear, says James Well, SCS fine arts advisor for visual art and theatre.
Portrait by Marqwavious Newell, Grade 11, Wooddale High
"These teachers are very passionate about what they do and that helps them weather all the changes brought about by consolidation," says Wells, who is an Overton High alum. "It's refreshing to see how cohesive they are and positive. They are committed to excellence."