The Thursday “Tune in to Black History” series at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center kicked off on Thursday with the African American Art exhibit featuring art students from Gentry High School.
Dawn Whitfield, who is in her first year of teaching art at the school said, “We’re just building an art program right now, and getting the children excited about the importance of art and appreciating art.”
Tykeria Stovall is one of the exhibiters and her work, entitled “The Lady Flag,” is a replication of an online image that she likes, but with some variations. “I put in my own spice,” she said.
Stovall said the added symbolism represents a statement of freedom. She said, “It shows that we’re free and different from how it was back then.” Whitfield added, “The students do a lot of re-creation (and) learn about all different types of artists along with the history of art.”
Stovall, an 11th grader, said that it is unlikely that she will major in art in college and ascribed her participation in the class simply as being that she likes to draw. Some of her favorite subjects are cartoons and decorative fonts. Their main working mediums are basic drawing and painting, Whitfield said.
Rickia Barnes, a 10th grade student, is also a student in Whitfield’s class and has dubbed her painting “Unfinished.” The original artwork is a depiction of a black queen. “This came directly from me,” she said. Barnes said the image is her first work and she enrolled in the class because it is different.
“We learn the basic curriculum from the beginning of art into present day,” stated Whitfield. Another one of her students, Jakevius White, is also in the 10th grade.
His work of art shows different sized forearms and fists in varying shades of brown against a backdrop of African colors, which he said represents the diversity among the black race. “How it’s different tones of the African-American,” he said. “Not all just one color, but all one people.”
The young painter said he did some drawings as a child, but has done a lot more since enrolling in Whitfield’s class. His post high school plans do not definitely include collegiate art studies, yet; however, White indicated that he would consider it.
Whitfield said, “When they do matriculate into college, at least if they weren’t interested in art they would know to take art appreciation and I think they will excel in that.”
The students have already participated in one art contest that took place during Mississippi Valley State University’s B. B. King Day observance and one of her students placed third.
Her students, who range from 10th to 12th grade, receive instructions in the most basic skills to slightly more advanced level. “They really haven’t had art extensively. A lot of them have talent, so the ones that have the most talent I give them harder things, things that they would find more interesting,” she said.
The exhibit is scheduled to be on display for the entire month of February and Whitfield expressed her gratitude to the museum and the community for their support and to the Sunflower County Consolidated School District for keeping art alive in the schools. “It is very important to support the arts and keep them in the school system,” she said.