Creativity has been described as a loss of inhibition. So, who better to look to for the roots of creativity than the county’s youth? Chesterfield’s Council of PTAs/PTSAs has been highlighting the creativity of Chesterfield students for 40 years. On Saturday, against the backdrop of substantial school budget cuts, students in kindergarten through 12th grade were honored for their creativity in music, dance, literature, visual arts and film production.
Meadowbrook High School hosted the 40th Annual Reflections Program awards ceremony honoring the top entries out of 1,855 students. The Council’s first place winners will move on to compete against 20 other Virginia districts at the state level and, eventually, in the national competition.
“It’s a beautiful ballerina,” said Nathan Noel, 5, of his first place entry in visual arts. “I like art, but I really love music.”
Nathan, who is the son of James and Charlene Noel and a student at Falling Creek Elementary, created a piece that fit the theme “beauty is…” using torn construction paper.
With age comes a little more artistic intention, as was evident in 6-year-old Willie “Trey” Campbell, who attends Elizabeth Scott Elementary. Willie’s honorable mention for a four-panel comic reflects what he loves. “I like Spiderman. I’ve always liked Spiderman. I watch all his movies,” said Willie, the son of Willie and Sara Campbell.
Young Willie comes by his art honestly – his mother studied art in college. “He was ecstatic when he won,” said Mrs. Campbell. “He’s always been good in art. He began making little books with comic characters two years ago.”
For the youngsters, it was all about their art and a little about eating cupcakes after the awards ceremony, but the adults were taking things a little more seriously. When attendees received their programs as they entered the auditorium, they were also handed a flyer headlined “SOS: Support Our Students.”
The flyer calls on students’ parents to ask the Board of Supervisors to increase to the property tax rate to the revenue-neutral level, meaning the county would collect the same amount of property taxes but residents would not see an increase in the tax bill. Dr. Marcus J. Newsome, superintendent of schools, asked parents to call their state legislators and urge them to reduce cuts for education.
“I’m convinced,” said Del. Betsy Carr, who represents part of Chesterfield and Richmond. “But there are a lot of legislators that need convincing. E-mail your legislator.”
Comments by Stella Edwards, president of the Chesterfield County Council of PTAs/PTSAs, and event chairperson Melissa Thompson Sheehan congratulating volunteers, parents and “the talented people we have in our county,” were soon overshadowed by a piano composition written and played by James River High School student Christian Woodrum with only his left hand.
Soon, students were posing for photos as they accepted their awards. In the commons area, award-winning films were projected while parents and students viewed the artwork displayed.
A pen and ink drawing called the “Tree of Life” hung unassumingly near the bottom of one of the display walls. L.C. Bird senior Crista Taylor, daughter of Jeff and Laura Burcham, explained the details of her entry, which won second place in visual arts.
“I like Africa, so I have an elephant and a giraffe as part of the base of the tree, and I also like the ocean, so you’ll see a dolphin there, too,” Crista said. She won an honorable mention last year and was surprised to place again.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” she said. “I was really shocked to get first place [at L.C. Bird].” Crista continues working toward a career in art, hoping to teach art one day. “I paint at least two hours every day,” she said. “I’ve been working on a set for about a month and a half.”
Six-year-old Victoria Watkins’ photograph of a butterfly was a featured graphic on the front page of the Reflections program. Her parents, Debra and Jeff Watkins, explained that the picture was taken as the insect fearlessly landed on Victoria’s finger. According to Victoria, her photography skills aren’t up to par. “We don’t have photography at school, but right now we’re painting our octopuses that we made from clay.”
According to a PTA press release, the liberal arts programs in Chesterfield County Public Schools may be cut by as many as 18 classes per high school if the teacher-to-student ratio is raised by only one student, as is proposed in the current budget. This could eliminate classes like orchestra, creative writing and band, among others.