In between grammar lessons and math skills, 12th grade art students at Smyrna High School work all year on projects that stretch their creativity, honing skills some didn't even know they had. The school offers several classes, in everything from drawing and painting to ceramics, sculpture and photography, making room at the table for every student's imagination.
And, all of that imagination will be on display this month at the Smyrna Opera House for the annual Senior Art Show, an exhibit that the students and their art instructor Shari Dierkes hopes will highlight how hard they've been working since September.
"I just want the kids to be able to show off their talents to the community," said Dierkes. "I want them to be recognized for how hard they've worked."
For senior Alexis Cossman, a ceramics and drawing student who finds as much of her inspiration behind the lens of a camera as she does by the firelight of the kiln, she's also hoping people will see how hard she's worked.
"I have two pieces in the show-a smaller one and a bigger one," said Cossman. "The little one didn't take that long but it takes several steps to get to the final result. We have to do three sketches before we even start so we have a good idea of what the final result will be."
Dierkes said that Cossman loves art and it shows.
"I have her in the drawing and painting capacity but also in the ceramics. And, with ceramics, she didn't even know that she liked ceramics but once she got her hands dirty with it, you couldn't keep her away."
Cossman credits her mom as the impetus for taking ceramics, saying that her mom's own love of high school ceramics class is what propelled her to enroll in the class. Now, the younger Cossman lists it as a full-fledged passion.
"I just love working with the clay," said Cossman. "It calms me so I'm really passionate about it."
Like Cossman, senior Alexa Smythe is also enthusiastic about her art classes. However, Smythe's enthusiasm resides in drawing and painting, a medium that Dierkes said Smythe has really blossomed in this year, thanks in part to the discipline of her advanced placement class.
"Once she had the responsibility of being an AP student, she just flourished with her drawings," said Dierkes. "She doesn't even realize that some of her stuff is so good. She's got some natural talent and ability and she has exceeded any high school expectations. I think she'll go somewhere with her art."
Smythe certainly wants to go somewhere with her art. The senior art exhibit is her first show but will likely not be her last given that Smythe plans to study fine arts at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania next year.
Page 2 of 2 - "Being in this show, I'm learning about how you live as an artist and how you get stuff out there," said Smythe. "I hope people see something about me when they see my work but I also hope they notice the composition. I've worked really hard on that.
The show will feature the work of many students, though, and lots of those students didn't begin the school year with any real artistic expectations. Dierkes first has to fight against the common notion that art means drawing and painting and that the only relevant style is realism.
"Students often shy away from art or struggle at first because they are so focused on how well they can draw," said Dierkes. "I tell them all the time, though, that good art does not mean pretty and it does not always mean drawing or painting. They just have to find their medium. It might be collage, digital art, sculpture or photography. But, every student has a place here and has something to offer."