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Inaugural art show a success for Franklin County schools

  • Zeigler-Royalton art teacher Michael Berry, center, stands with students from his school and Sesser- Valier at the inaugural Franklin County High School Art Show held Saturday evening at ZRHS.

    Zeigler-Royalton art teacher Michael Berry, center, stands with students from his school and Sesser- Valier at the inaugural Franklin County High School Art Show held Saturday evening at ZRHS.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Michael Berry, right, discusses some art pieces with Sesser-Valier sophomore, Jessi Senior.

    Michael Berry, right, discusses some art pieces with Sesser-Valier sophomore, Jessi Senior.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Alister Webster's arker and ink drawing drew accolades from her grandmother, Bonnie Bearden, left, and her aunt, Lois Gaddis. Webster is a student at Zeigler-Royalton High School.

    Alister Webster's arker and ink drawing drew accolades from her grandmother, Bonnie Bearden, left, and her aunt, Lois Gaddis. Webster is a student at Zeigler-Royalton High School.
    Holly Kee photo

  • West Frankfort High School art teacher Tim Murphy was all smiles as he looked at the various works done by Franklin County art students at the inaugural Franklin County High School Art Show held at Zeigler-Royalton High School Saturday evening.

    West Frankfort High School art teacher Tim Murphy was all smiles as he looked at the various works done by Franklin County art students at the inaugural Franklin County High School Art Show held at Zeigler-Royalton High School Saturday evening.
    Holly Kee photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE
Staff Writer
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 5/1/2019 6:45 PM

With many local schools struggling to fund the arts, one Franklin County teacher decided to tackle the issue head on by showing just how many talented artists reside in the small, rural county.

"We've got over 200 entries representing every school in the county," said Michael Berry, who teaches art at Zeigler-Royalton High School.

Berry came up with the idea of holding a countywide art show to demonstrate the need for arts in the schools.

"In a society that is covered up with computers, tablets, and smartphones, kids have all this information pumped into them," said Berry. "Art gives them the ability to think for themselves and form original, rational thought."

Berry said while there are art skills and different mediums taught in his classes, it's more about learning across the curriculum than learning to draw.

"We're not just doing macaroni necklaces and finger painting," he said, "art builds critical thinking skills."

Berry said that with the current trend being social media that essentially says "here's my picture and here is what I want you to think," art gives kids the ability to think for themselves and then express what they're thinking.

West Frankfort High School art teacher Tim Murphy was all smiles as he perused the various works of art, including a charcoal drawing done by one of his students, Shelbie Joiner, entitled "Clementine."

"Look at her use of shading," said Murphy, a 43-year veteran of the classroom. "Look how she uses that to express the emotion."

Murphy agrees with Berry. "We need to find a way to keep the arts," he said. "We're al struggling with that."

Murphy, the originator of West Frankfort's Candy Cane Lane, has involved his students in that project, putting them and their skills and talents on public display.

"The reason I came back was to keep art," said Murphy, whose efforts brought national recognition when Candy Cane Lane was featured on the television show "Christmas Light Fight."

Murphy insisted that part of the show be filed at the school.

"That should help," he said.

For Berry, whose efforts obviously paid off with at least 200 visitors ambling through the school gym Saturday evening, part of the show was about helping to secure a grant to add an art teacher at the junior high.

"Right now, I think Benton is the only county school with an art teacher below the high school level," he said. Berry included an additional 100 art pieces done by junior high students that were not part of the judging.

"We're trying to get a grant through the Illinois Arts Council and the Illinois State Board of Education," said Berry.

That grant would fund the set up of a program and pay the teacher salary for three years.

Berry called Saturday's event a success, one he hopes to continue. "I'm hoping that the show will rotate through the county schools each year," he said.