Young artists recognized for exceptional work

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Portsmouth high school artists are being recognized in an ongoing art exhibit at the Old Dominion University Tri-Cities Center.

The Churchland High School Art Scholar’s Senior Exhibit was unveiled at the University Boulevard campus on May 19, where it will remain open to the public until June 8. Seven senior Art Scholars Program students contributed more than 40 unique art pieces based on a variety of mediums, materials and messages.

“These are exceptionally gifted art students,” said Ellen McClintock, certified master adviser and enrollment services specialist at ODU Tri-Cities Center.

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Churchland visual arts instructors Jamie Cosumano and Jean Stith, along with student curator Raichelle Johnson, organized the capstone collection. The graduating seniors in the program worked tirelessly to put together striking and thoughtful pieces for the exhibit.

Jazmyne Williams, one of the seniors, was particularly proud of her self-portrait called “Laufey.” She used acrylic paint on cardboard to explore to explore how the disconnection Norse mythological characters such as Laufey had with human society mirrors the same disconnect between millennials and society today.

Painting that message was no easy task.

“I came to school the next day dead tired, because I spent seven hours on it the night before,” 18-year-old Williams said. “It was great, but also terrible.”

Exceptional artists at Churchland High School are typically selected for the Art Scholars program as rising ninth-graders, Stith said. Students that join meet for 90-minute program classes every school day, adjusting their schedules accordingly to meet the challenges.

“The instructors here push you even when you don’t want to be pushed, but you usually come away all the better for it,” Williams said.

The students are vigorously tested on art history, with exams based on masterpieces from the greatest artists of many different eras. Test takers are given extra credit for anecdotal details that go further than the questions.

“Michelangelo’s ‘David’ saved my entire existence,” Williams said about one of the test questions.

The students agreed that the studies have even surpassed what’s taught in some Advanced Placement classes and college courses. Amber Frederick, for instance, is taking an art history course at Tidewater Community College.

“What they’re studying is what I already learned freshman year here at the program,” the 18-year-old senior said.

Stith said the students have worked hard over the years to learn different art foundations and find the mediums best suited for their individual strengths. She said the difference she’s seen between success and failure after 26 years with the program is “grit.”

“They’re tenacious, and they work hard,” she said. “I always tell the kids that there’s work in artwork, and it’s their tenacity and perseverance that makes them special.”

The students have gotten to know one another through the program, sharing the same drive to improve their artistic skills and prepare for collegiate art studies after they graduate.

“It’s about putting in more dedication than you think you would,” said 18-year-old senior Shaniya Scruggs. “I love this program.”

The Churchland High School Art Scholar’s Senior Exhibit, also known as the Giovani Artisti Exhibition 2017, is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the ODU Tri-Cities Center on University Boulevard.