Clayton Schools honors winning pieces

By Curt Yeomans


Thirteen Clayton County art students were honored Wednesday for their works, which earned top recognition in the school system's first-ever Visual Arts Competition.

The schools held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open a temporary exhibit that will be on display through May 27 at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center. The exhibit is comprised solely of the top three art pieces in each of the four categories in the art competition.

Among the officials offering praise to the young artists were school system Fine Arts Executive Director Paul Robbins, Art Lead Teachers Jessie Spivey, Mariah Buchanan, and Natachia Pope, and Interim Superintendent Valya Lee.

"These boys and girls are the best of the best in Clayton County Public Schools in the area of art," Lee said. "These pieces of art have the power to add [something] to each of our inner souls, and I encourage you to go and see all of them."

Approximately 200 Clayton County students entered artwork into the competition, after a call for entries went out to school art teachers in February, Spivey said. Three judges, including two art teachers from Fulton County Schools, and a coordinator for the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, were brought in to pick the winners.

This is the first year the school system has held a visual arts competition. Buchanan said the goal was "to be able to showcase the talents of our students, and to let them know we appreciate what they do."

Many of the first-place winners said they were surprised to learn they had won top honors in their respective categories. Mt. Zion High School senior, Thach Tran, whose ceramic sculpture of a hip-hop dancer won first place in the high school category, said this was first year taking art classes.

He said he only entered his sculpture because his teacher recommended he do so. He said the sculpture was something he had created in class over a two-week period for his own amusement. "The sculpture was my own thing that I did for myself," Tran said. "Then my teacher said I should enter the competition, and this was my best piece ... I'm pretty shocked that I won ..."

Jasmine Young, a second-grader at Kemp Primary School, was similarly surprised by her first-place win for her re-creation of ...douard Manet's "Le Fifer," because it was something she did in an art class that she only took for three months. She was her own harshest critic after the unveiling.

"Everyone else thought it looked just like the original, but it didn't really look anything like it at all," Young said. Young's mother, Patricia, explained that "she thinks it should look exactly like the original painting, but for a second-grader, it's actually really good."

While Tran and Young said they have limited art exposure, another first-place winner, Mundy's Mill Middle School seventh-grader, Renell Yonkedeh, said drawing is nothing new for her. Yonkedeh won in the middle school category for a drawing that featured a violin and musicians. She said she has been drawing since her family moved to Georgia from Africa six years ago. "It's helped me get my feelings out ever since," Yonkedeh said.

The winners of the Visual Arts Competition are:

Kindergarten - second grade

· First Place: Jasmine Young, Kemp Primary School

· Second Place: Mitchell Crumbley, Jr., Mt. Zion Primary School

· Third Place: Alyssa Babbage, Riverdale Elementary School

Third-Fifth grades

· First Place: Keith Fleming, Kemp Elementary School

· Second Place (tie): Qeeoctae Jones, Edmonds Elementary School, and Mikala Shannon, Suder Elementary School

· Third Place: Kwame Hughes, Tara Elementary School

Middle School

· First Place: Renell Yonkedeh, Mundy's Mill Middle School

· Second Place: Desiree Turner, Lovejoy Middle School

· Third Place: Melinda Morgan, Adamson Middle School

High School

· First Place: Thach Tran, Mt. Zion High School

· Second Place: Scott Johnston, Lovejoy High School

· Third Place: Jaquan Cummings, Clayton County Fine Arts Magnet High School