Arts clubs nurture high school artists in Durham

By Sharif Ruebin
YO:Durham Intern
the Durham VOICE


When budget cuts to public schools roll around, the arts often are the first subjects terminated.  Even so, many students feel that the arts are important to their education.

“The Visionaries” art club members paint a mural in the cafeteria. The mural consists of different ethnic groups assembled as one person. (Photo Courtesy of Shazeeda Mohamed)

Singers, musicians, painters and sketchers are a part of the community, and some of these artists are public school youth.

Extracurricular clubs give students outlets to express themselves creatively after doing vigorous schoolwork. At Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College High School there are two major arts-related clubs—the music club and “The Visionaries” art club.

Both are popular among students.

“I joined the art club because I needed a way to reveal my artistic talent to the public,” said Alania Tran, a sophomore at JDC Early High School.  “I needed to express myself and display my talent.”

Tran said that the art club was her “calling” because it allowed her to discover how much artistic confidence she has and how to conquer her fear of the public.

“The Visionaries” art club began in 2007 under the leadership of Yvette Walker, an English teacher at the high school.

“A student approached me and asked me if I would sponsor the extracurricular club… during a specially scheduled time that did not always include time for clubs,” said Walker.

Due to the popularity of the club and student commitments, “The Visionaries” began to meet weekly after school.

Walker said the club became immediately active by painting the school’s first murals. The club even collaborated last fall with professional muralists from the Dominican Republic on one project.

Some “Visionaries” members stand in front of a capstone mural left to right: Daniel Mejia, Alania Tran, Elizabeth Piloso. Students say they enjoyed themselves and were moved by the mural’s message. (Photo Courtesy of Shazeeda Mohamed)

This mural rests on the school’s second floor wall. It pictures the Statue of Liberty crying while scaling the balance of education in America.

Lady Liberty stands between African- Americans with a chalk board disclaiming “How to be a Good Negro” and white Americans with a laptop stating “How to Achieve the American Dream.”

Tran believes that “The Visionaries” members are proud of their work.

“We had major projects that contributed to our school,” said Tran.  “Our first major project was painting the numbers on the elevator floors; we split up into small groups and designed a certain number representing each floor.”

“This was a great project to start out the art club into transitioning to more exciting projects,” she said. “Like our murals.”

Likewise, the music club influences students participating in it.

John Becker is a faculty member at JDC Early High School that co-moderates the music club with co-worker Jonathan Tyus.

“I am constantly amazed at the level of talent our students exhibit,” said Becker about the music club.

The music club was started three years ago.  Becker said he and Tyus wanted to provide an opportunity for students playing musical instruments and singing so that they would come together to expand skills.

Becker said some members are casual musicians who see it as a hobby while others wish to make a career out of music.

One student, sophomore Maia Crumbie, views the music club as a hobby and called it one of the best offered at the school.

“It acts as a creative outlet for me,” said Crumbie. “It’s a place for me to grow confident in myself and be surrounded by people feeling the same.”

Developing confidence seems to be a plus for students in arts clubs.

“Music club has always helped me further develop a voice I didn’t think I had,” said Crumbie. “It helps me socially with the feedback we give each other.”

Cierra Earl, JDC- Early College sophomore, is a part of “The Visionaries” art club. She is painting one of the floor murals by the elevator. (Photo Courtesy of Shazeeda Mohamed)

Becker said that he and Tyus are proud of their students and their performances at school dances, fundraisers, talent shows and concerts.

Similarly, “The Visionaries” art club assists student organizations by providing backdrops for programs like the Poetry Slam in which students share poetry with audiences.

The art club also hosts fall and spring shows and visits local art galleries and museums like the N.C. Central University Art Museum and the Nasher Museum on Duke University’s campus.

Walker said that several club members have taken college art classes and several have gone on to enter art and photography contests with “promising results.”

Tran said that “The Visionaries” most recently finished project is a multi-racial mural with a background consisting of major national flags on the seven continents.

“I am having a blast with the club tackling new projects and new imaginations,” she said. “The club has definitely given me more imagination and more ways to look at things around me.”

Walker agrees that students like Tran take club participation seriously.

“Some students are interested in art and find club activities fun,” said Walker. “Others plan to have an art related career and take their work seriously.”

Becker also believes that dedication to clubs and hard work pays off for most students in the end – maybe even with their own little piece of fame.

Becker said,  “I think any of them who dedicates themselves and understand the challenges of a career in music has a shot at it.”