Swain Middle students create painting for DSS

Swain Middle School students painted the landscape for Swain County Department of Social Services.

Government offices aren’t generally known for their interior design. More often than not, you’re stuck reading informational posters. Recently, art students from Swain Middle School helped brighten the mood a bit at Swain County Department of Social Services by co-creating a landscape painting to be on display at the local office.

It was DSS director Sheila Sutton who reached out to the school district about creating a piece of art to display in the lobby to help brighten things up for those who come to the office.

“Our goal was to see if her art students would be willing to put their artistic abilities to practice by painting large canvas art pieces for Swain DSS. We want to foster a relationship with the Swain County School System and add to the atmosphere of our agency,” Sutton said. “We requested that the art pieces reflect positivity, relate to families, and include bright happy colors.”

Students in Mrs. Sheena Kohlmeyer’s art elective, primarily eighth graders, were happy to take on the task.

“I’m glad to have them help and be involved with the community,” said Kohlmeyer.

The staff at DSS was happy with the results.

“We received a beautiful piece of canvas art that is displayed at the front of our office as clients walk back to staff offices,” Sutton said. “It brightens our day to see it, and we are very thankful to the students and the school system.”

The students shared some thoughts on the experience of creating the painting.

Sarah Wall, a leader of the art and drawing club, explained the concept.

Eighth graders who worked on the art displayed at the Department of Social Services are (from left to right): Destiny Fox, Walayla George, Zachary Jones, Sarah Walls, Don Smith, Bryanna Reynolds, Dawson DeFoor, Abbeygale Loftis, Isaiah West and Lydia Dingle.“We wanted something that looked happy and calming,” she said.

This was one of the first times students worked together on a project as a group.

The students used tempera paint and worked over two classes.

“Some of us were in different electives, so it was a group effort,” said Zachary Jones.

To make it easier on the students, Mrs. Kohlmeyer broke up the painting into sections for each group to work on. Some people painted the same flowers, while some worked on the lines for the fields.

Wall and a couple of the other girls painted the sky with the splatters and Waylayla George painted the moon.

“I’m a lot more used to doing stuff by myself so when it comes to a group, it’s harder for me,” Wall said.

“You have to communicate better to come up with ideas,” added Jones.

The project provided a learning experience for the students, who had to meet the challenges that come with a shared project created by many hands during in two different class periods.

“They had to communicate with each other and they talked with each other about their ideas,” Kohlmeyer said. “Some got to take on leadership roles with determining the colors and concept.”

It was a process, one student explained.

“The river that was on there got covered up, so it had to be re-done,” said Dawson DeFoor.

The challenge of the project also turned out to result in benefits, however, by communicating, the students got to know each other better and make new friends.

“You get to know people when you’re talking to them, you learn more about their ideas and you get to tell more about their personality and how they want to do it,” said Jones.

The students agreed they were proud to be able to work on a painting that would be on display in a public place for a long time. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, said DeFoor.

Principal Tim Kurr likened the painting to the tile paintings eighth graders paint before they graduate onto high school.

“You’re leaving something a little bit of you that’s going to be there for the community to enjoy and for me, if I was ya’ll it would make me feel very good about myself that I was leaving something that is a collaborate effort that’s helping community,” he said.

The students said they were open to other group art projects for the community.

Principal Kurr said the school has a plan for a new student painted mural on campus.