Thursday, January 6, 2011
Byhalia artists hit jackpot in state contest
By SUE WATSON
Byhalia Middle School’s gifted art program has taken three of the four 2010 Mississippi Public Broadcasting holiday card state awards.
Instructor Cynthia Chitwood is elated that Marshall County students are excelling in the arts as well as academics.
MPB held the 2010 holiday card state announcement and reception at Byhalia Public Library on December 20.
“I am always amazed by the talent and creativity of the children who enter our holiday card contest,” said Maggie Stevenson, MPB director of early childhood literacy.
“With over 200 entries, the 2010 card contest was a great success. We are very proud to honor the winners.”
The top four received prizes and their original pictures in a shadow box frame.
First place went to sixth grader Timothy Brown, 12, of Byhalia. His original artwork is displayed on the 2010 MPB holiday greeting cards, which were mailed to friends and members of MPB across the state as well as government officials and agencies. He received a prize package valued at $100. Son of Teisha Griggs, Brown is in Chitwood’s gifted arts class.
Reed Lindsey, 8, of Booneville, son of Jobie and Lisa Lindsey, took second place. He won a $50 prize package. Lindsey attends Anderson Elementary School.
Katie Flores, 12, and a seventh grader at Byhalia, placed third. She received a $25 prize package. She is the daughter of Magali Flores and also a student in Chitwood’s class.
Karlie Dalton, 11, and a sixth grader in Chitwood’s class, won honorable mention. She received a basket filled with goodies. She is the daughter of Lisa and Jimmie Dalton.
Chitwood, in her fifth year at BMS as instructor of the gifted art and gifted academics program, said, “I am lucky to have the level of support from my co-workers, principals, the board of trustees and the superintendent of education. Other counties are not so fortunate. Many school districts are not able to have art programs.”
Byhalia Middle School not only offers a general art program, but a competitive fine arts gifted program for advanced artists.
“Students have to apply for the program and be accepted through a screening process where outside judges determine if they may enter the program,” she said
Students submit five drawings for a board of art teachers to review. If they pass this portion of the screening, they will do a live drawing test. Judges determine who qualify.
“There is a waiting list and kids are roving down the halls begging to get into the program,” Chitwood said.
The gifted program is a reason to go to school for many children who otherwise would not be so happy to attend school, she said.
“Many parents stop and tell me if we didn’t have this program they couldn’t get their child to come to school,” she said. “This is really a good avenue for talented kids or shy kids to find their niche.”
Sometimes shy students have trouble finding their niche among students who appear to be popular, she said. The gifted program offers them a place for them to shine. It also helps motivate students to do better academically.
Students must do their work in order to stay in the program and if they do, they have an opportunity to compete for awards and seek art scholarships to prestigious art colleges such as the Memphis College of Art, Savannah College of Art and Design and many state colleges, Chitwood said.
The fact that Marshall County Schools are small critical needs schools but offer a gifted art program speaks loudly for how the county leadership values a well rounded academic program, said Don Randolph, superintendent of education.
“I thank the school board for allowing me to hire individuals for the fine arts program,” he said. “We employ four art teachers throughout the district. We have a fine arts teacher in each school. We attribute the success we are having to that and it gives us an opportunity to involve more students across the district. We know we can teach math, science, art and music and that all these subjects are related.”
Chitwood has 63 gifted students with 22 of them in the art program. All her students, however, submitted cards to the PBS holiday card contest.
“It gives these students an opportunity to express what they see in art and to express their individual creativity,” Randolph said.
“We also thank PBS for affording us the opportunity to participate in the contest. We ask our constituents to support Mississippi Public Broadcasting. I also thank Ms. Chitwood and principal Landon Pollard at Byhalia Middle School.”
Each year, Chitwood develops a theme around which the curriculum is set. This year students are studying the theme, Skipping Stones Across European History.
Included in the art curricula are architectural art, perspective drawing, sculpture, landscape, still lifes, and Greek and Roman Medieval and Renaissance history. Special interest was placed on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
“Students are encouraged to analyze different artworks and to apply principles to their own work,” Chitwood said.
The media used this year includes hot wax, dyes, acrylics, tempura and watercolor.
With the limited funding of $240, parents and Chitwood all support the program to make it successful. Those interested in sponsoring the program are encouraged to contact Byhalia Middle School.
“I truly believe that arts are essential in the overall development of a child,” Chitwood said. “Not every child goes to college on a math and science scholarship.”
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