Troy Art Day: students connect, learn, express themselves

Lacey Alexander

Staff Writer

Nearly 400 middle and high school students from Alabama participated in the fourth annual Trojan Art Day on Friday, Feb. 24.

Twenty-four counties were represented at the event, and students stayed on Troy’s campus from 8:15 a.m. to roughly 2 p.m. The students participated in workshops, classes, tours and an award ceremony that closed the event.

Larry Percy, associate professor of art at Troy, lead Trojan Art Day.

“This was our fourth year, and I think it was probably our biggest and best,” Percy said. “Each year has been an expansion of the year before . . . I could not do it without the support of my chair and the full faculty.”

“In terms of providing the experiences and creating the workshops, each one of them kind of decides what they want to do.”

Percy taught a workshop on creating bowls with clay, and the other offered workshops and events ranged from sidewalk chalk drawing to digital art.

“Sarah Dismukes did calligraphy,” Percy said. “And she isn’t necessarily an expert on that, she just wanted to learn more about it herself . . . You know that old saying, ‘if you want to learn something, teach it to somebody else.’”

Troy art students were also heavily involved in Trojan Art Day, serving as ambassadors.

After each professor decides what they want to do, they identify student helpers they want personally, according to Percy.

Marcus Dorsey, a senior graphic design major from Montgomery, served as the ceramic demonstrator during the event and social media coordinator.

“Being able to work with these students and see the work that they are producing, especially at the age that they are, is just an amazing experience,” Dorsey said.

Percy said this experience was especially important for his art education students.

“They are the ones that process the work, they hang the show,” Percy said. “I have future educators here that are meeting teachers in the field and seeing their work come in . . .  One day they’re gonna be doing this.”

Megan Flannigan, a sophomore art education major from Decatur, said Trojan Art Day was a great opportunity to teach and connect with middle and high school students.

“They got to design and paint their own boards… It was amazing to be able to see how their imaginations worked and to hear their laughter,” said Flannigan who had the opportunity to work with Russell Everett, lecturer of art, in the cut-out painting section.

“Trojan Art Day is about connecting with students and giving them a chance to express themselves,” Flannigan said.

Kelly Berwager, lecturer of art, assisted Percy in setting up for Trojan Art Day, and said she wanted the experience to be an eye-opener for her art education students.

“I want it to solidify the decision they made to study art education,” Berwager said. “And sometimes they go ‘this isn’t for me’ and that’s okay. You’d rather they figure it out now than get a few years into it and decide they won’t want to do this.”

An exhibition, set up by art education students, was on display in the Malone Gallery of works by middle and high school students. These works were chosen by the students’ respective teachers as part of The Visual Arts Achievement Program.

VAAP is a statewide art competition sponsored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts divided into seven districts. Troy is in district two.

“Each teacher gets to send 10 works of art, and we judge third, second, and first place,” Percy said.

The chosen winners are divided into a middle school and high school category, and these winners are honored at the awards ceremony. All of the first place winners compete at the statewide VAAP competition.

“If a student wins up there, it’s like winning a state championship in athletics,” Percy said.

Percy said that the creation of Trojan Art Day came from scheduling conflicts with VAAP’s district awards ceremony.

With the awards ceremony and workshops being on a Saturday, students weren’t attending the workshops. Percy attributed lack of attendance to busy spring weekends.

“That was brought up and it was suggested we move the event to Friday, and that’s how we came up with Trojan Art Day,” Percy said. “Now, teachers can invite their entire art student body instead of just the ten chosen to compete.”

Percy said participation was nearly maxed-out this year, so they have to limit how many students come in the future.

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