By ALLEN RAU
The McKinney Center held a Student Art Show on Thursday, Dec. 6, to display the work produced by students attending art classes at the Center this semester.
From pottery to pen to paintings, the walls of the old Booker T. Washington school were covered with masterpiece upon masterpiece.
However, the most important accomplishment the arts program produced could not be found hanging on the wall, according to McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons.
“A lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to do those creative things at school. So we’re a place where, if you have a child that has an artistic flair or a passion for something specific, we might be able to fill that need for them.
“There are studies that prove that if you have a child in music, they’re going to do better in school. There are (studies) that have shown that kids with special needs or behavioral issues, when you get them into a creative outlet, those (issues) get better.”
The art show, a culmination of the lessons learned from the fall semester classes, rewarded the students by allowing them to have family and friends see their artwork neatly framed and hanging on the wall.
The genesis of the event began years ago with a teacher who worked in the building, at that time a school. Hammons said, “The whole idea behind the student show actually comes from the Booker T. Washington school. At the end of the year, in the spring, Mrs. Ethel Brown, who was a teacher here for many, many years, organized an end of the school year program.
“That was a time when, if you were a student here, maybe you read a poem on stage, or you did a dance or you sang. Some kind of talent. A lot of it was art-related. And it was a big deal.”
Hammons added that the popularity of the program led to families being bused from outlying areas to the school to watch their loved ones perform.
The director said that Mrs. Brown’s program was very influential to the current Student Art Show, along with the goal of having the program’s students experience the thrill of seeing their finished projects more as works of art in an exhibit.
“We wanted them to have that experience. So we thought (the art show) was the perfect thing. After every semester we honor that tradition of having an end of the year program.”
The end of the year show in the spring semester was named after Mrs. Brown, while the fall semester show is more holiday-themed.
In addition to paintings and pottery, a musical performance by the ukulele class at the McKinney Center added to the holiday spirit.
The class, taught by Terry Countermine, a Jonesborough alderman, plucked a few holiday classics for the attendees. The 12-week-long class contained students of all ages, the youngest being 4 years old.
Another student in the ukulele class was Caitie Morgan, who also volunteers at the center. A home-schooled ninth grader, Morgan also had artwork on display.
“I really feel like (the show) is to help get the students ready to do more. In this case it’s to show off what they’ve learned. But that means they can use it being put in the Student Art Show to eventually get their own gallery or something.”
Morgan felt that the evening was a success. “It went wonderful, I think. It’s a lot better that last year’s was. They always improve, it seems.”
While the center does have many younger students who use the classes as a creative outlet, Hammons said that many of the students are adults.
“We had a lot of adult students here that brought their families and friends and spouses to see the artwork they had done. And they really work hard.
“Half the students are 12th grade and under and half are out of school. Most of our adult students are retired. They’re from all walks of life. We have teachers. We have doctors. There is one who is a pediatric oncologist. We have farmers, you name it. They’re just looking for a creative outlet.”
But whether the students are 6 years old or 60, Hammons believes each one is valuable.
Or as she put it, “It’s worth celebrating and acknowledging all their hard work.”