Students honor King with art


Devon Gainey, left, a second-grader at Duval Elementary, and Somoia Buchanan, a Duval fifth-grader, create a plan for a monument they have crafted for this week's exhibit at the Reitz Union. Students came up with their own project ideas.

MARLO DAVID/Special to The Sun
Published: Monday, January 21, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2008 at 12:06 a.m.

She likes to paint whatever comes to mind, and in this case she paints to show peace.

"The art shows that black and white people can now work together and be friends," said Somoia Buchanan, a fifth-grader at Duval Elementary School and a member of the after-school art club.

This is the basis of the club's project.

Through creating five original three-sided pillars, the after-school club celebrated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the progression of civil rights.

Todaymonday through Friday, their final project, titled "Monuments of a Movement: Children's Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Evolution of Civil Rights," will be on display at the Reitz Union Gallery at the University of Florida.

After Friday, the monuments will be on display in the Kirby Smith Center on E. University Avenue.

The group that brought the exhibit to life - comprised of 22 Duval students from second through fifth grades, two art teachers and volunteers from the University of Florida's Black Graduate Student Organization - met five times to brainstorm and create the monuments.

In the first meeting, the small groups created a plan and in subsequent meetings they painted the backgrounds on the monuments, collaged them, added lettering, placed sculptures on the top and wrote artist statements.

"We basically made these in five hours total," said Melissa Olver, one of the art teachers at Duval Elementary.

Duval is home to the county's elementary-school fine arts academy, which is designed to improve education both in and through the arts, according to Duval's Web site.

The idea for the project was presented by Marlo David, a member of the Black Graduate Student Organization and a parent of two Duval students.

David said she was looking for a way to incorporate younger students into the Black Graduate Student Organization's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. award celebration.

"We envision this as a partnership that we hope to continue with Duval," said Angelique Nixon, a member of the Black Graduate Student Organization.

All the brainstorming included the students in the art club.

"These are sharp kids," David said. "It was really important to us to have their input because there really is something special about children's perspectives."

To make the monuments, the students worked in multi-aged groups and were given free rein to create a masterpiece, Olver said.

"We gave the students blank canvases," Olver said. "I had total faith in them."

All the supplies for the art project were objects found in the art room. No additional money was spent.

Cjavia Jones, 7, a second-grade student, said it was hard work and that she is proud of her final result.

Fifth-grader Joni Perkins' favorite part is the timeline her group added to the top of the monument.

"It shows civil rights throughout the years and how freedom has really changed our world," she said.

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