This year’s art exhibit topic is “SMILE,” and each student from Hillgrove, Pope, Kennesaw Mountain and Osborne high schools’ transition academies were asked to use any art medium possible to create an art piece that illustrates what makes them smile.
Sarah Jones, who is a teacher at the Kennesaw Mountain Transition Academy, said this is the second year her school has hosted the art exhibit but the first that all four schools have participated.
The academies teach students between the ages of 18 and 22 with intellectual disabilities how to integrate with the community.
“The exhibit is a way for these students to be recognized within the community, and it’s very therapeutic for some of our students,” Jones said.
During the last two weeks of September, the students use a variety of mediums to illustrate what makes them smile, including hobbies, pets, food and spending time with their families.
“The reason we are focusing on this is because we focus on real-world adult activities,” Jones said. “We let the students self-explore their interests, topics and categories on the Internet, just like everybody else does to get ideas.”
One of Jones’ students, Caroline Pruitt, created an acrylic painting of a lion’s head with its mane blowing in the wind.
Her mother, Lisa Pruitt, said 19-year-old Caroline found the picture in one of her art books.
“This is a great opportunity for them because they’re expressing what they like themselves,” the former art teacher said. “It’s a really good self-esteem builder. I like hearing about what all of them like, and (the exhibit) will be a good experience for them too because they will get to see their art on display.”
Lisa Pruitt said her daughter, who graduated from Kennesaw Mountain High last year, is the youngest of four children and has mild cerebral palsy and is mentally disabled with hearing loss in both ears.
“This is her first year in the transition academy, and I’ve already seen a huge difference in her confidence level,” she said.
Another Kennesaw Mountain Transition Academy parent who’s proud of their child’s artwork is Debbie Turner.
Her daughter, Amber Turner, is 20, and this is the second year she’s qualified to be in the program. Amber has Down syndrome.
“The art center is just another part of what they do at the academy to help integrate the students into the community,” she said. “This is an opportunity to get them involved in the community and even have their art displayed.”
Amber’s art piece is a coffee cup sleeve.
“She’s happy when she’s with friends, and one thing she enjoys doing with friends is having coffee, so she took a coffee cup and she made her art part of the sleeve that you slide onto the cup to protect your hands from the heat,” Debbie Turner said.
Because their program focuses on integrating these young people into the community, they have opened up the exhibit to the public and invited a number of dignitaries to attend the Oct. 11 reception, including the Cobb County Board of Commerce, Cobb County Arts Board, Cobb County Director of Parks and Recreation, as well as Gov. Nathan Deal and his wife, Sandra.
The reception for Kennesaw Mountain and Osborne will be from 6 to 6:45 p.m., and the Hillgrove and Pope reception will be between 7 and 8 p.m.
For directions or more information on what days and hours The Art Station-Big Shanty is open, visit www.artstationcobb.org.