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Festival focuses on art

March 14, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - A Jefferson County tradition was in full bloom Saturday at Jefferson High School, where the auditorium bustled with students, parents and teachers attending the 14th annual Jefferson County Schools Fine Arts Festival.

The festival is a daylong celebration featuring a variety of art displays and musical and theatrical performances by students in elementary through high school.

The festival opened Saturday morning with music by students with the Jefferson High School jazz ensemble.

"On Thursday, the band was selected as West Virginia's all-state honor high school jazz band," said Bill Lanxner, assistant band director.

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Sarah Bryan, a 17-year-old junior and jazz ensemble member, said the festival has grown to symbolize the importance of arts education in schools.

"We don't really get a chance to show off arts programs," Bryan said. "Today is all about the arts. People can see that art is just as important as sports."

Area parents say the festival allows a chance for camaraderie between students and parents.

"It brings the community out, it even brings them together I think," said Michelle Fellers of Charles Town, W.Va. "I'm impressed with the crowd," Fellers has had two daughters perform in the past.

"It gives kids something to do," said Judith Simmons, whose 11-year-old daughter, D'Shai, and 6-year-old son, Timothy, both had pieces of art on display at the festival. Timothy, at only 4 feet tall, peered up at the 6-foot display board where his artwork hung.

"It's an alien on plant Mars and he has a laser in his hands," said the first-grader, who said his art was inspired by a movie.

Veteran art teachers such as Ranson Elementary School's Robert Sherwood said the festival's impact is twofold: It's good for education and it's a helpful public relations tool. The festival heightens public awareness, showing what art teachers do in the classroom at a time when art programs often are targeted during budget reductions, he said.

South Jefferson Elementary School art teacher Judith Chesley said the festival gets bigger every year.

"We've grown. We used to hang artwork in the halls. Now, we've expanded to the gym," Chesley said. On Saturday, she displayed more than 100 pieces of art by students from her school.

More than 1,500 people were expected to attend the day's events.

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