DPS artists recognized in NCCU museum

Jan. 12, 2014 @ 07:38 PM

“Durham’s Finest” kicked off Sunday with a floating reception in the N.C. Central University Art Museum.

The artwork of more than 200 Durham Public Schools students will be on display through the end of January through the district’s system-wide art exhibit.

People poured through the doors at the start of the reception, accompanying young artists who were ready to showcase their creativity and talent.

“It seems to get better each year,” said Kenneth Rodgers, director of the NCCU Art Museum. “This year, one of the awardees is a kindergarten student. Durham, like many communities, is loaded with extraordinarily talented students.”

Rodgers said that each piece of artwork was screened by art teachers at each school, resulting in four contributions per school. He added that the exhibit is just one way to encourage students with artistic talents to nurture them, possibly into a lucrative career.

Faye Brandon was at the reception with her grandson, Roderick Brandon III, a 4th grader at R.N. Harris Middle School whose work “Illuminated Letter ‘S’” was on display. After catching glimpses of the work on her way to see her grandson’s piece, Brandon couldn’t help but smile.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “Just absolutely wonderful. It reinforces my philosophy of art. Imagine the world with no color. Art is essential to everything else. It’s not about whether or not you can draw. It pulls out your creativity.”

After being laid off from two corporate jobs, Brandon said that she went back to school and studied to become an art teacher.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s my passion, really.”

Nancy Cox, a member of the DPS Board of Education, attended the reception. After looking at much of the artwork and talking to students, Cox said that this is just one of the district’s fruitful collaborations.

“This is an incredible collaboration between N.C. Central University and Durham Public Schools,” Cox said. “This is just a lovely example of the kinds of opportunities available in the district’s public schools.”

First-place winners and honorable mentions were chosen at each level and blue ribbons were hung on their work at the reception.

The K-5 winner was George Watts Montessori 4th grader Navarra Chakeres with “Matise Interior in Barcelona, Spain;” the 6th – 8th grade winner was Lowe’s Grove Middle School’s Moriah Breeden with “K. Michelle;” and the 9th – 12th grade winner was Durham School of the Arts senior Britney Balmer with “Untamed.”

The youngest artist to be recognized was David Morris, a kindergartner at Morehead Montessori, who received an honorable mention for his work “Abstract.”

Britney Balmer and her art teacher, Carolyn Maynard, both attended the reception. The recognition came as a complete surprise to Balmer. Maynard said that the young artist is beautiful inside and out and earned her reward.

“I’m thrilled that such a hard working girl with great ideas was recognized,” Maynard said. “She has an astonishing work ethic.”

Maynard has been to 15 of these exhibits and said that “it’s really an honor to have two students recognized.”

Balmer found out about her win at the reception. With family and friends in tow, the DSA senior was excited about her latest accomplishment.

“I looked at the materials and liked how it looked,” she said of her work. “It looked eerie, but not scary, and it fit in with Halloween.”

Describing herself as an artist ever “since I could pick up a pencil,” Balmer wants to pursue a career in art, as an illustrator or graphic artist. She also has won a Scholastic award and was published in DSA’s literary magazine “Portraits in Ink.”