Dalewood Middle students exhibit art at Creative Discovery Museum
Dalewood Students Featured at Creative Discovery Museum
Chattanooga, TN -- For the last month, Jalani Ford has been more than a seventh grader at Dalewood Middle School, he has been an exhibited artist.
Two of the 13-year-old’s paintings are displayed at the Creative Discovery Museum along with others from students in his class.
Michel Belknap, Ford’s art teacher, said she was approached by Liza Blair, the arts manager at the Creative Discovery Museum, after seeing Dalewood students’ work at another exhibition. Belknap said this is the students’ fourth showing this year, and first opportunity for a solo exhibition.
Blair said the two-wall space at the Creative Discovery Museum is the only place in Chattanooga permanently designated for art made by students in grades kindergarten though 12th.
Ford, who said he wants to be an artist, said his first painting looks like a three dimensional circle with cords coming out of it.
“I was thinking of optical illusion arts, lines of symmetry, and that was almost the first thing that came into my head,” he said, noting that it hasn’t always been easy. “I couldn’t paint at first,” he said.
Belknap said the biggest struggles for her students at Dalewood are not having foundations in art or the confidence to speak in their own voice through art. She said Ford’s transformation came primarily though building his confidence.
“For him it was just moving the brush, and sometimes I’d help,” she said. “I’ll do one, you do one. The more they realize they can do, there’s no stopping them.”
Belknap said she is continually working to instill confidence in her students.
“The whole foundation of our program is about confidence building and a powerful form of expression for all students and all ages and abilities,” she said.
Belknap, whose art is exhibited in New York, said she was drawn to teaching after experiencing first-hand the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and losing her New Orleans home four years later in hurricane Katrina.
“I felt this longing to be able to share this with people that I felt like I had something in common with, and it turned out the best match for me was middle school, because it’s such a dramatic age,” she said.
Students seem to notice the difference the new art program has made at their school.
Coryn Atkinson, another seventh grader who is exhibited at the Creative Discovery Museum, said, “When you come in here, you can just free your mind of everything before you go to your next period class, and it helps you during the rest of your subjects.”
Belknap said her students will be featured in several upcoming art shows and are entering contests as ways of promoting the art at their school.