Hundreds of people milled around more than two dozen displays in the New Kent High School cafeteria for the 19th annual Celebrate the Arts this past Wednesday night.
Works on display ranged from charcoal sketches and pastel paintings, to photography and stained glass, and had been pulled from every school in New Kent. Younger students huddled with their parents around several arts and crafts tables, while older students pointed out the artwork they had made.
One member of the community who came to admire the artwork was New Kent’s interim Superintendent Dr. Carol Fenn, who said she was impressed.
“I’m just amazed at the level of talent from these students on display tonight,” Fenn said. “Some of these paintings, these photographs, it takes me a moment to register that a child made them, so there are some very talented, very artistic students here in New Kent, and the community should be proud of that.”
Having worked as an art teacher at New Kent High School for more than 20 years, Susan Musselman has been here since the very first Celebrate the Arts event. She said one of the best things over the years has been having the night serve as proof of the impact and growth of the arts programs in New Kent County Schools.
“When we first began, we didn’t have the number of teachers that we have now,” Musselman said. “We now have art teachers at each elementary school. This was the first year we’ve had two art teachers at New Kent Middle School, and we now have three here at the high school, so we’ve come a long way.”
More than just a big night for the arts program, it was an even bigger night for the students, according to Musselman.
“This is the only major event where we get to have all the art students together and get to celebrate them and their work,” she said. “It’s not like with performing arts or sports, where you have several events. This is the one night a year we get to celebrate them and their work with the community, and a lot of these kids are over the moon about it.”
One of those students, New Kent High School junior Molly Wallace, said Celebrate the Arts night is the rare moment where students get to show off projects that can often take them an entire school year to finish.
“I’ve been taking art classes ever since I was in kindergarten, and it’s always a highlight to be able to showcase what we’ve done each year,” Molly said. “I have a woven basket and a stained glass butterfly on display here tonight, and it’s nice to be able to show off what we’ve worked so hard each year to the community.”
One of the people Molly was proudest to show off her work to was her mother, Diane Wallace. Wallace said the night had been a wonderful opportunity not only to see the kind of work her daughter has been doing before the end of the school year, but to support an art program that has touched a lot of student lives, including Molly’s.
“She’s always made very nice art, and really enjoys it, has always been very artsy and creative,” Wallace said. “It’s nice to be able to see the work she and her classmates have been doing over the year, I’m quite proud, we’ve got plans for where to put them.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email email@example.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.