Art classes offer much more to students than simply the ability to draw or paint. During the rally for school funding in Annapolis, Maryland’s State Teacher of the Year - an art teacher from Baltimore City - explained the life skills and learning capacity that are developed in her art classes. She said that she gives students a toolkit to succeed not only in art class, but also in life. Although our art classes are at risk because of the school funding crisis, in my capacity as a state delegate - in addition to working to find funding to alleviate the school funding issues - I also want to personally support our art students and teachers.
To that end, during the interim I worked with my legislative director to initiate a program that has started small, but that I hope will grow: a competition among high school art students to display art in my Annapolis House Office Building office during the legislative session.
We reached out to Todd Conway, the art teacher at Digital Harbor High School, to discuss the project with him. He was enthusiastic about the opportunity this presented for his students to learn more about state government and to display their work. He selected several pieces of art from among those his students had created, and we picked the final two pieces.
Thus, the art on display in my office this year was created by Stephon Torrence and Carlos Davis. Stephon, who drew the blue heron, is in his fourth year on the varsity football team. He plans to go to college for business administration. This was his first pencil/watercolor drawing and art class in high school. Stephon currently has one of the fastest times in the 55m Hurdles for 4A track and field in the entire state. Carlos, who drew the frog, currently has an internship with Northrop Grumman and is enrolled in three college level courses at Baltimore City Community College. Carlos is also on the track and field team.
In addition to displaying their work, I invited Stephon and Carlos and their families, and Todd and Assistant Principal Bowden to Annapolis to see their work and to tour the statehouse. It was great to meet these students in person and to thank them for allowing me to display this work. I introduced the students to the entire General Assembly from the House floor, and coordinated a tour of the Assembly and the Governor’s mansion for them.
This artwork serves as a constant reminder of the potential of our students and as my role as an advocate for our students, teachers, and schools. Baltimore City School schools are incubators and accelerators for our student to realize their potential and to grow and prepare to be leaders. I reject the Governor’s label that our schools are “an absolute disaster.” Our students are smart, talented, and have bright futures. That is why I am asking the Governor to help us #fixthegap and to invest in amazing students like Stephon and Carlos.
I would like to send a special thank you to Digital Harbor High School, Mr. Todd Conway, Stephon Torrence and Carlos Davis for all their help in facilitating this process.