PTA Art Exhibit Opening Showcases Magical Moments

Reflections-student artists and special guests

Reflections student artists are joined on stage by National PTA President Otha Thorton (center), PCAH Executive Director Rachel Goslins (seventh from right), members of the PTA Reflections Committee, and National PTA staff.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Department was privileged to host the opening of an exhibit of art works by winners of the National PTA’s 2014 Reflections Program competition. For nearly half a century, the National PTA has inspired millions of students to become involved in the arts through Reflections, and each year many of the winners are recognized at the Department in its Student Art Exhibit Program with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open an exhibit of their work. This year’s exhibit includes 65 works by K–12 students from across the country and in U.S. schools abroad on the theme The Magic of a Moment. Writing, dance and film are also showcased in the exhibit.

Reflections-Haley Strong The Cat Who Smells Flowers

Haley Young’s cat was the inspiration for her award-winning collage, “The Cat Who Smells Flowers.”

Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton welcomed guests to the Department and delivered the important message that arts education matters for “every school and every child.” As Shelton pointed out, “The research is clear that art helps our kids do better at everything.” This includes the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Shelton reflected that not only does art tell a child’s personal story, but it also gives the U.S. a vital leading edge over other nations in “creativity, design, and innovation.”

PTA President Otha Thornton explained that the PTA’s mission is to engage parents to make sure their students’ education is challenging and rewarding. A way to do this, he said, reiterating Shelton’s message, includes adding “the A” for art to STEM, and bringing STEAM to every school’s curricula. The arts in education, Thornton said, “[help] students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills that the core subjects can’t foster alone.”

Reflections-Emma Dunwoody Mermaid Adventures

Emma Dunwoody titled her award-winning mixed-media piece “Mermaid Adventures.”

Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), spoke about the importance of art as a tool to solve schools’ performance problems. Goslins focused on the PCAH Turnaround Arts initiative, which, in partnership with the Department and other public and private entities, has brought intensive arts programs to the lowest-performing schools. The initiative is transforming them, both in terms of improved academic results and a positive school culture.

Reflections Committee Chair Dawn Small thanked the student artists, many of whom were in attendance with their families, for their inspiration and, in keeping with this year’s Reflections theme, for demonstrating how the arts can be magical. She shared one magical moment she experienced — a phone call from a past Reflections winner who was asking for her winning piece from second grade back so she could display it at her 16th birthday party!

One of the students in attendance, Haley Young, a winner at the primary school level, was happy to have traveled from Ohio to D.C. with her mother to celebrate her favorite subject — art. Strong created the whimsical, torn paper, collage piece, The Cat Who Smells Flowers, depicting her cat named, according to her piece’s theme, Rose.

Reflections-Born to Be Somebody dance

Reflections Award of Excellence winner Jessica Clay (right), accompanied by Kendyl Kokoyama, performs “Born to be Somebody.”

Second-grade winner Emma Dunwoody came to the opening with her family from Texas to see her mixed-media piece, Mermaid Adventures, and to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Emma said that she was amazed by “all of the stuff” underwater, which inspired her to make her award-winning work.

Jessica Clay, a high school senior and award winner for dance choreography in the newly created Special Artist Division for students with disabilities, performed her winning dance, Born to Be Somebody, with freshman dancer Kendyl Kokoyama. The piece about making dreams come true showed that creativity and expression are unlimited when they are nurtured in arts programs and given the freedom to expand. The two dancers, both from California, decided to perform together after Kokoyama saw Clay perform another state Reflections-winning dance, which then inspired Kokoyama to create her own dance that also later won a state award.

Reflections-Bailey Callahan performing The Magic of Moments

Bailey Callahan, a Reflections Award of Merit recipient, performs her award-winning “The Magic of Moments” composition.

Eighth-grader Bailey Callahan from Florida sang and performed on guitar her award-winning composition, The Magic of Moments. The song about the fleeting nature of life showcased an emerging talent supported by access to arts education. Callahan is releasing her first album in February.

The ceremony closed with a ribbon-cutting by the student artists in attendance — including special student guests from D.C.’s Amidon-Bowen Elementary School — to mark the official opening of the exhibit. Guests were then invited to browse the splendid works on display, meet each other — especially the many heads of  leading arts organizations and national and regional PTA officials — and enjoy a lunch buffet, courtesy of the National PTA.

The exhibit can be seen through the end of February in the Department’s headquarters lobby at 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, D.C.

Click here to see additional photos from the exhibit opening.

Nicole Carinci is a management and program analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

Department of Education photos are by Joshua Hoover.

5 Comments

  1. It is always great to see our children express their selves through Art and using their creative to show everyone a little of their personality. My hope is that we can allow my children to do this on a greater scale. This type of event helps all students with the Social Aspect that some of our urban schools are missing. Great JOB!!!

  2. Since art is an eclectic expression of the human mind & soul. Why doesn’t the Department of Education and the national PTA encourage the art of poverty. And
    please don’t misunderstand because I am not talking about the taking away of any
    cultural enrichment. In fact, I am trying to state that we should broaden it! Since
    America is a class stratified society. Much of the public school system and maybe
    even the majority of the public school system teach children from very low to low-income families. Demographically, I believe it’s close to 60%. And that’s to many children who are already to silent in expressing themselves in a non-violent way, and I am talking about the huge numbers of them who don’t graduate and eventually wind up in prison as career criminals. What I’ve revealed is a reality that everyone
    knows about but which is seldom discussed in a mass forum and that’s why I am pleading to {name redacted per comments policy} and PTA President Otha Thornton to do something about promoting art as an afterschool endeavor in public housing projects and very low-income neighborhoods where churches can be engaged as a 21st Century Community Learning Center. Let’s be aware that our republic might be crumbling right in front of our very eyes!

  3. I am so amazed at the work you have done.it excites me. I will be happy to see the A added to STEM to make it STEAM.It sounds good and also shows that there is hope for the arts in education.I am a Kenyan, I do integrate art in all my teaching because am an artist. Art has the power to transform the society and is also therapeutic.

    Big up for the good campaign on the arts.I hope and long to hearing from you. my best regards go to {name redacted per comments policy} of the editorial sector in the student art exhibit section of the department of education.She has really inspired me and kept life in me as far as art and education is concerned

    best,
    Hosea
    The earth without art is just eh!

  4. It has always been my belief that children have unlimited potential. Really, interesting
    to see what happens when their art skills are developed, as shown in their work here. Art is essential to life and learning for a whole lifetime. I am proud of your organization National PTA and its members for helping children develop their creative skills (which God gives to each one), you are indeed improving the whole child experience in all other subjects as well.

  5. We are so proud of Bailey, our Florida girl, for pursuing her dream! The thing I love about the PTA Reflections program is that it addresses the whole child.

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