Paintbrushes were in abundance during a t-shirt design class led by mixed-media artist Shambé Jones at Jackson State University’s Summer Art Institute at Johnson Hall on Thursday.
“I did art growing up, but I didn’t get serious until I came to Jackson State and majored in fine arts,” says Jones, who graduated with his bachelor’s from the HBCU in ’02.
Now, he is one of four JSU alums giving back to the University. During the four-week program, art instruction is provided to over 250 students most who are participants in the HBCU’s College of Education and Human Development Kids Kollege afterschool and summer program.
“It is the second year that we have had the JSU Summer Art Institute in place, and it was made possible thanks to the University’s love for students, in addition to teamwork and collegiality,” says Shonda McCarthy, director of JSU galleries.
The students, ranging from preschool to eighth grade, were wowed by the opportunity to work in an art studio and see a photography lab, printmaking room, painting studio and art gallery, McCarthy reveals.
“For many students, this was the first time they have seen and worked in a collegiate art environment,” she says. “Now that art has been eliminated from some of our public schools, this was a great plus and benefit for many of the students.”
Close to 100 sixth-graders laugh and giggle while creating their “Thee I Love” tiger t-shirts at the behest of Jones, who walks around the room offering guidance. The alum, a member of the Mississippi Artist Guild, also specializes in ceramics, sculpture, and pyrography aka wood burning – the art of decorating wood with burn marks.
“Art is life,” he says, recalling how, as an art student at JSU, his professor had him and his classmates remove the art from the walls to see how the blank canvas resonated with others.
“It looked very strange like something was missing. And it was something missing; it was art. What type of world would we live in without art?” says Jones, in a rhetorical tone.
Perhaps it is safe to assume that without art, 10-year-old MaLeah McNair would not be excited about her t-shirt project.
“I like painting because it lets you express yourself through creativity. I like the back, too,” she says, before turning her shirt around to reveal a painted equation that reads: “Princess + McNair = Princess M.”
Smilow Prep sixth-grader David Eubanks says he is proud of his creation because he can wear it and show it off. While 11-year-old Charles Dishmon says that Jones and McCarthy have taught him that “in art, there are no mistakes.”
Zyane White, a sixth-grader at Lubbett Elementary, says that she enjoys using her creativity then points out that the tiger on her shirt is a girl because girls are strong.
Jones is an advocate of Ask for More Arts – a grant-funded program designed to provide elementary students in Jackson Public Schools with more opportunity to learn through arts. He recognizes the need for children to be exposed to various possibilities.
“I think it’s important for them to have an outlet because in our community – the black community – we always push sports and entertainment. He says, “But [the youth] need to see that there are other options. I’m just planting the seed is what I’m trying to do.”
Aside from Jones and t-shirt decorating, students were treated to cartoon illustration by Monique Davis. Karen Cotton, an art entrepreneur, shared handcrafted card making with students and Prissy Paintbrush, a female-owned small business, treated kids to an art party workshop.
On June 29, from 1-3 p.m. all of the students will showcase their art at “Thee Summer Art Spot for Kids.” The art sport will not only serve as an art exhibition opening for students but also a celebration of their work.