April 23, 2013

Student art heading to Washington

By Christopher Smith

— Right now, it’s resting on a wall in the Dalton office of U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger).

In May, Avery Beason’s artwork will be hung in a tunnel connecting the oldest congressional office in America and the U.S. Capitol Building, both in Washington, D.C.

Graves said walking the tunnel between the Cannon House Office Building and the Capitol is “a truly neat thing and a great place for art” when he announced Beason of Sonoraville High School in Calhoun as the winner of the 2013 Congressional Art Competition Monday night. Beason represents the 14th state district, which covers most of northwest Georgia including Whitfield County.

A panel of judges from the Creative Arts Guild made the selection. The announcement ceremony was held at the Dalton State College Derrell C. Roberts Library.

“The tunnel houses artwork from every congressional district in every state,” Graves said. “Avery’s artwork will be displayed where thousands upon thousands of visitors will see it every day as they go through this tunnel.”

That idea makes graduating from high school seem less overwhelming, said Beason who beat out 42 submissions and five finalists. The finalist included Callee Manna and Hannah Harper of Darlington School in Rome, Eva Ramirez of North Murray High School and Morgan Johnson of the Georgia Cyber Academy, an online public school.

“It was really exciting to hear my name called,” she said. “I was nervous because all of the finalists were really good. I’ve never won something like this. It’s exciting to know so many people will see my work.”

“Homecoming Kiss” is a pencil recreation of a photo showing Beason kissing her mother on the check during a homecoming dance two years ago, Beason said.

“I drew it for my mom’s birthday,” she said. “She really liked this picture.”

Beason said she plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta campus this fall to study graphic design. Graves said when she gets out of college she should “continue to chase her dreams.”

Keith Beason, Avery Beason’s father, agrees.

“Every child is unique and you want to nurture their natural abilities,” he said. “Then you figure out — obviously — at the end of this you need a job. But her responsibility at this point is to develop her talent and take it to the collegiate level. It’s not like you can’t find a job in art and keep following your muse. There’s people who say you can’t get a job in art. That’s a myth. That’s just not true.”

That’s an important thing to keep in mind when federal budget cuts continue to hit art and art education, said Graves. The U.S. Department of Education website reported 4 million elementary school students nationwide go without art classes, while sequestration has reduced federal art grants by 5 percent.

“Really it’s in each local community’s best interest to make sure there are avenues available to students with artistic talents,” he said. “It’s clear that good education is still available locally and that a lot of good instructors are helping students in our district just by the art we see (in this competition).”

Graves added that would-be artists should be self-sufficient and not depend heavily on the government to jump start their careers through grants.

“If you wait for the federal government to support you the federal government will let you down,” he said. “Despite what’s going on to the national budget, these students press on after their dreams and that’s encouraging.”