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Local youngsters display masterpieces at Arts Clayton

Photo by Curt Yeomans
James A. Jackson Elementary School Principal Donna Jackson (left) talks with Kim McMillian, an Arts Clayton board of directors member, about the work created by students at the elementary school, on Friday.

Photo by Curt Yeomans James A. Jackson Elementary School Principal Donna Jackson (left) talks with Kim McMillian, an Arts Clayton board of directors member, about the work created by students at the elementary school, on Friday.

Kim McMillian was left in awe of the abilities of a 5-year-old on Friday.

McMillian, a member of the Arts Clayton Board of Directors, was perusing the artwork made by James A. Jackson Elementary School students at the Arts Clayton Gallery, in Jonesboro.

The display is one of two month-long exhibits featuring the artwork of young people. The other contains the work of high schoolers that was entered in Congressman David Scott’s (D-Ga.) 13th Congressional District Art Competition.

There were detailed drawings, emotional photographs, abstract paintings and 3-D artwork in the two exhibits. But, it was a red, slightly bumpy, 1-foot-tall vase — which was made by a kindergartner — that ended up representing all of the artwork that floored McMillian.

“I’m amazed,” she said. “The skill set of this age group is definitely unbelievable.”

Although the Arts Clayton Gallery has hosted Scott’s art competition before, this is the first year that exhibit has been paired with another that shows the artwork made by children. Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin said the group is a “partner at large” with Clayton County schools. She said the group is especially close with Jackson Elementary, since it is an arts-themed school.

Summerlin and Jackson Elementary Principal Donna Jackson said the two exhibits were a natural fit for each other.

“These elementary school students will, hopefully, someday be entering the congressman’s art show, so it goes hand-in-hand,” Summerlin said.

Jackson — whose husband, Cephus Jackson, is a member of the Arts Clayton Board of Directors — said the fact that the art competition entries were being shown in the gallery this month was her motivation for getting the elementary school artwork displayed at the same time.

“I wanted the [elementary] students to see work that these high school students are doing, because I would love for them to continue their aspirations to be artists,” Donna Jackson said.

She said the elementary school students are expected to be at the gallery on March 13, from 5 p.m., to 7 p.m., to talk to arts patrons about their work.

Officials from Scott’s office said the artwork turned in by high school students from across the congressman’s district has set a high bar for future entries. This marks the 10th year Scott’s office has held the contest, and the winners will get to see their work eventually displayed in the U.S. Capitol building later this year.

“We’re very proud of the work that has been submitted for this competition,” said Audra Braswell Bleecker, Scott’s constituent services manager. “We are extremely impressed by the artistic talent that exists in this area.”

Much of the artwork entered in the contest drew accolades from Arts Clayton patrons, who attended the opening of both exhibits on Friday. The complements focused mainly on the skill level shown by the high school students, as well as the subjects they chose to focus on, and the different styles they employed in their entries.

“This one’s called ‘Pollution of the Earth,’” said Jonesboro resident, Penny Johnson, to her friend, Betsy Wester. “Is that not neat?” After examining the piece, which showed litter cluttering a wooded area, Wester agreed with her friend.

Bleecker said the creators of top four pieces in the competition will receive arts scholarships to the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the Art Institute of Atlanta. The winners are not expected to be announced until a private reception, which is scheduled to be held at the gallery on March 17.

The Arts Clayton Gallery is located at 136 South Main Street, in Jonesboro. Call (770) 473-5457, for more information.