Sixteen young artists are featured in the Arts & Science Center’s 2018 Pine Bluff High School Annual Art Exhibit, on display in ASC's Simmons Gallery.
The exhibit comprises 20 works, in mediums such as pencil, colored pencil, and acrylic paint. Colorful pieces covering the walls of the Simmons First Gallery contrast with black and white pencil self-portraits.
The artists, all juniors and seniors from Shalisha Thomas’s Art I and Art II classes this year, are:
Ashia Shelton, who will be a senior this fall, has three pieces in the show. “Stranger Fruit,” despite its deceptively bright colors, explores a darker narrative. The piece’s title is inspired by the poem written by Abel Meeropol and set to music, most famously performed by Billie Holiday.
“Instead of focusing on the raw meaning of the poem ‘Strange Fruit,’ I wanted to imply a different one,” Ashia explained in her artist statement. “I wanted to represent the lost voices of black men and black people in general. It was important to represent the lost voices as beautiful fruit. In this piece, I chose primary colors. Primary is defined as ‘of chief importance; principal.’ I wanted to also represent the voices as important ones rather than the ones that were outcast.”
Justin Thomasson’s “Ikicki No Uta” is one of the eye-catching works in this year's show. Justin, who will be a senior this fall, drew the self portrait in color pencil. The title was inspired by a Japanese song called “Shiki No Uta,” he said. "I chose to do myself holding the guitar because that was the kind of feeling that came from listening to the song."
Ashia's and Justin's talents have been recognized outside of school. They both previously lent their talents to the Drain Smart program, which uses art to communicate the function and importance of local storm drains. They each painted a drain near the Pine Bluff Civic Center complex; Ashia’s can be seen at 10th and State streets, and Justin’s at 11th and State streets.
Ashia designed the Go Forward Pine Bluff logo for the task force in 2017. This spring, Justin finished second in the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Talent Hunt, winning a cash prize and received an all-expense paid trip to Houston, Texas, where the Omega Psi Phi Ninth District Talent Hunt was held.
Johnathon Callum's "Brotherhood" depicts two interracial players coming together during a political conflict. "I use paint to allow the picture to pop out at you, and allow the emotions to pour out of my work," Johnathon explained in his artist statement. "It really grabs your attention, the reason I chose to do this is because I am currently channeling my art work toward the topic of 'Football and Politics.' Currently, NFL players are dealing with many political issues that are being covered up. I am trying to be their voice, and show them they do have people that see the injustice taking place. I hope to wake people up to the problems, so we can solve them one at a time."
PBHS art teacher Shalisha Thomas curated the show for the first time this year. This was Thomas’s first year teaching at PBHS as well. She previously taught at Belair Middle School for five years.
PBHS art teacher Virginia Hymes, who retired last year after more than 40 years of teaching, facilitated the show from its inception until 2017. Hymes is also an ASC board member.
Thomas, herself a 2002 PBHS graduate, was one of many students Hymes inspired during many years of teaching.
“The high school experience is different for each student. For me, the quiet introvert, I did not feel like I fit in at times,” Thomas said. “Taking Mrs. Hymes' class in high school made me feel like I belonged. She was so encouraging, and she did not allow you to just sit in class. You had to participate!
“Mrs. Hymes saw the potential in her students. She worked tirelessly to produce strong artists. Her influence helped me make my decision to become an art educator. I have always loved art, but her passion for teaching inspired me to become a teacher. It is definitely an honor to assume Mrs. Hymes' position at Pine Bluff High School. No one can take Mrs. Hymes's place, but it is my privilege to continue to teach and inspire students like she did, and still continues to do today.”
Virginia Hymes’s pride in both her former students and Thomas’ students is evident when speaking to her. "Shalisha — she’s a former student of mind. She’s a jewel."
Hymes, who attended the 2018 opening reception in May, loves seeing the students show off their art with their families.
“I tell you, it is such a joy when I see the kids and the parents are so proud of them," Hymes said. "It feels so good. You should see the grandparents. They bring their families. As a teacher, to see that, it means a lot. These kids are the ones you know you want to reach out to. It’s an experience you know they will never forget.”
The exhibit, sponsored by Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel, is on display through Saturday, July 7.