Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Atkins Wins in Art Showcase

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Atkins High School, best in chess, best in TSA, one of the best in academics, best in technology. Best in art? Well, yes. 

Atkins HS won its third team state championship of the school year, with its Art Showcase team winning the NCASA contest held on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at the Durham School of the Arts. Coached by Atkins art teacher Janet Blakely, the competition involves creations from eight different media centered around a prompt released earlier in the year, which this year was a poem by NC Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson about a slave girl (“July”) from Johnston County, NC. 

Stephenson said, "I wish I could say the right words to celebrate the connection between 'Writing History's Bargain' and the artwork the students made." After judging was complete, he was able to converse with many of the artists about their works. 

Two students also won their categories individually and received trophies as individual state champions: Kayal Udaiyar for her sculpture, and Delaney Black for her mixed media work. In addition, Neil Williamson received an honorable mention from Stephenson, one of only two works (of 150) in the exhibit to do so.

“This was such an exciting experience,” said Black, who made the trip with her mom to the exhibit. Cora McAnulty and Kayal Udaiyar also attended. “It made me feel really proud to see someone appreciate my work,” McAnulty said after one visitor stood examining her work for an extended period of time, and exclaimed, “So many emotions!”

“This could be our year,” said Blakely, when the team won the Regional in January. Its best finish overall was second place two years ago. The accomplishment of this year’s title is amplified by the fact that Atkins has only one art teacher and a much smaller enrollment than some of its competitors in the contest, including large Charlotte schools with four or more art teachers. Those programs can select artwork from its top classes, whereas Atkins each year calls upon artists from literally all over the building.  

"It was such a dramatic experience when our team was announced. Our students created such great works this year," said Blakely. 

As an academic and technology magnet school, Atkins is sometimes not known for its arts program; however, its music programs are growing, and artistic students are not hard to come by. According to Instructional Facilitator Sonya Rexrode, “Our students are very well-rounded students. Being able to place in the top for art shows that our students are more than just merely technical; it shows their creativity as well.”

The eight categories in Art Showcase are painting, drawing, collage, mixed media, printmaking, sculpture, photography, and computer-generated. The eight students are listed below with images of their works, along with interviews with some of them.

Three state championships in a single academic season is the most in school history, with titles by Kevin Hamilton’s Twelve team and Scott Plaster’s non-JROTC Cyberpatriot team also winning earlier this year. Atkins’ lead in the NCASA Scholastic Cup race was already over 100 points going into this competition, and will now grow larger with this finish. Atkins also placed seventh in the Dance Ensemble competition also held at the same location. After winning the NCASA Scholastic Cup for three years in a row in the 1A small school division, it is pitting this year against the largest schools in the state in the 2A division. “We’re having no trouble with the competition so far,” said Atkins HS Scholastic Director Scott Plaster. “Anyone who thought we only won the Cup these last few years because we were in the small school division will see this year that we have the best Scholastic program in the state, regardless of size.”

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