Art program returns to Yazoo City High

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

Art class is often an overlooked subject area in many schools due to the prominence of state testing.  However, students at Yazoo City High School are able to find confidence in themselves and their creativity in Mr. George Dixon's classroom.

After three years of absence from the high school, Dixon said that he was proud to be a part of the efforts to revive the Art Program. 

"We are starting on a different path with the program this year," he said. "This semester we are learning about the different elements of art.  With each one we will discuss it in a lecture, test on it, and then we will begin the hands-on work."

Dixon said that the new structure for the program grades students based on their attendance and participation in the class, as well as testing on the subject matter, and giving presentations on their completed projects.

"Each student must explain and give you an idea about their work," he said. "By doing this I have found that a lot of students feel more confident and begin to show more talent."

Currently, there are around 50 students that are currently enrolled in the art program at Yazoo City High School. Dixon estimates that there are potentially about 100 more students at the school who have shown interest in the class and may try to take art in the following semester.

Dixon said that he is overwhelmed at the level of interest the students have in the art program.

"They have really gotten into it," he said. "I am surprised at how creative they are and how they can interpret and express themselves.  With all of the different mediums they are using from collages to painting to drawing, each student is different and art just really brings out their character."

Dixon said that the students look forward to coming to his class, that they are often waiting outside before class, ready for the door to open.

"Another thing that amazes me is that not only does it bring more confidence to them in this class, but it also carries over into some of their other classes and activities as well," he said.

Dixon said that art class allows the students to pay more attention to detail, improves concentration, memory retention, and attention to detail, and shows them how to overcome problems by trying harder each time.

"I also try to show the students that not only are they learning patience, but they are also learning to overcome obstacles in their efforts to produce their work," he said. "You can take that lesson and learn to apply it in other areas of your life."

Two students in Mr. Dixon's class were pleased to share about their experiences in Yazoo City High School's art program.

Tionna Thompson is a sophomore student who excels at painting and looks forward to coming to Dixon's class every day.  A self-taught artist, she has created multiple landscapes and portraits by following online tutorials which feature Bob Ross and other artists. Thompson currently has several of her realistic paintings on display in the art classroom, which show her ability to paint with the elements of color, dimension, and texture.

"I have never had an art teacher before, so I am really excited that Mr. Dixon came," she said. "A lot of students here know how to draw, but we just needed the guidance and we didn't have that before."

Thompson's goal for this class is to improve her painting and drawing skills and hopefully be able to do more of her work from home.  She is currently working on a project to recreate Starry Night by Vincent van Goh using some of his techniques.

"I am hoping to improve upon my painting and drawing skills," she said. "I do a lot of portraits at home, but I feel like I could do way better."

Another student in the class, Willie Young, is a sophomore student at the high school, and is also involved with the JROTC program. Young uses a mixture of drawing and painting to create abstract works of art.

"At first I thought this class was going to be boring," he said. "But then I learned that it could help me focus, so I started to vibe with it, and once I learned to do the art I just stuck with it."

Young had already had a brief experience with an art program at another school growing up, so he was able to catch on quickly with his work, creating abstract creations from deep within his mind.

"The way that I work on my stuff is I think before I do it," he said. "I already have it pictured in my mind and then I just put it on something."

Young's current project features a series of words stenciled onto a canvas.  Once the letters are completed, he paints each area a different color, and then finished the work by splattering more colors of paint onto the canvas by flicking it with his fingers. His finished products look very much like a work by Jackson Pollock.

"I think painting is a metaphor for control," Young said. "It helps me focus. This is a very unique and creative class to be in."

In order to show off more of his student's creative artwork, Dixon has a goal of creating a travelling gallery so that others can be inspired to involve art in local schools.

Dixon said that his students' work will soon be placed on display at Ricks Memorial Library in Yazoo City, for the public to view and appreciate.

"One day I would like to expand this program and make it tangible for other students to enjoy," he said. "As a young person you can use art to your benefit to propel you into something creative and more positive for your life. This is only a stepping stone, so we will see what develops from here."