This year’s All-State Art Symposium at Columbus State University “felt like a movie — it was so, so good — (and) it was so beautiful to make art all day surrounded by other artists,” said Dalton High School senior Belisa Borrego. “The trip was such a big honor and a privilege.”
“I’m sad it’s my only opportunity to go, but we took advantage of the day and enjoyed it as much as possible,” Borrego said. “I wanted to take as much knowledge as I could and bring it back here.”
“It was one of the greatest school days ever,” said junior Audrey Marie Merryman. “You don’t see a lot of colleges go that deep into the arts, and get to be (immersed) in it.”
The “professors helped me make simple bowls (that) made me speechless — throwing on the wheel was a delightful experience — and I fell in love with ceramics,” said Borrego, who recently received the Creative Arts Guild’s Bernice Spigel Prize for Excellence in the Visual Arts. After ceramics, she moved on to abstract art, where “you could forget about all the rules and guidelines.”
“It made me see art in a completely new perspective,” she said. “Instead of thinking, I feel art.”
Prior to attending the All-State Art Symposium in late February, Merryman “didn’t really like abstract art — my mom does, and I know a lot of others do, but I wasn’t a fan — but I can understand the purpose of it, now,” she said. “It’s still not my favorite thing, but I understand it.”
The symposium’s welding workshop “flipped a switch” in Katherine Wilson, said the sophomore. Prior to the All-State conference, “it was just something my brother did, but my mother’s boyfriend is going to teach me welding, and I’m going to be welding all summer, now.”
She’s even considering a career in underwater welding — “I’m planning to get scuba-certified this summer — (as) there are a lot of good-paying jobs in welding,” she said. “Art can tie into the real world, and that’s what I love about it.”
Borrego loved the gallery of art by Columbus State students and professors, she said.
“There’s art in every corner, and it was mesmerizing.”
Merryman picked up tips from the gallery she’ll use in her own art.
“When I looked closely at the paintings, there were not very many straight lines, (but rather) a lot of smudges,” she said. “When you step back, that makes it look more realistic.”
Pottery proficiency“I’d never touched clay before — I was just trying to make a gift for my mom, and (Dalton High art instructor Ree Lambert) entered it (for All-State) — but I made it (to All-State) with my first pot ever,” marveled Wilson, who is in her first year at Dalton High after moving from Idaho. “I have some Native American ancestry, so I was interested in that (history), and I wanted to do a bird bath, but it worked out to be a lot bigger.”
Wilson’s piece “turned out really cute,” said Borrego. “It’s so adorable.”
Lambert “loved the texture, the character and the blazing” of Wilson’s pottery piece, she said. “She did a fabulous job.”
Like Wilson, sophomore Uriel Fernandez was attempting to create pottery for his mother, but instead earned an All-State spot with his pinch pot, which was his first piece, he said.
“My family is from Mexico, so I wanted to do the desert, (so) I put in a cactus and a skeleton head (with) the colors of the desert, and vines for roses, (because) my mom loves roses.”
“I was surprised” to earn All-State honors — only 100 works of 1,600 entries were accepted by the All-State panel of judges — but he’ll do more with clay in the future, although “I really like to draw,” too, said Fernandez. He’s partnering with a pair of fellow students “on a big project,” and Dalton High art teacher Trevor Ledford “has put my art in a show.”
Artists feel supported Merryman also has a show upcoming, at Dave and Pauli’s Art Emporium, she said. Merryman has won first prize multiple times during the annual Student Arts Expo at the Creative Arts Guild, she recently completed a life-sized sculpture of a fox, and she’s currently “making my own comic book.”
“We’re very fortunate to have an art program here with (Lambert and Ledford who) are always looking for opportunities for us,” Wilson said. They “are amazing in helping and supporting us.”
They are “our mentors and guide us on our path,” said Borrego, who also earned an All-State spot with a ceramics piece. “They’re not just teachers, but friends.”
Ceramics is “all based on effort, which is one of the things I like,” Lambert said. “The more effort you put in, the better it’s going to look.”
Inspiring experience Borrego, Fernandez, Merryman, Wilson and Lambert — Kira Delgado also earned an invite, but was unable to attend — participated in hands-on workshops in metal work, ceramics and different styles of drawing at the symposium. They were so inspired that Borrego and Merryman drew portraits of one another on their trip back to Dalton.
“I’d never had anyone draw me before,” Borrego said with a chuckle. “But, we felt like we just had to do it.”
At the symposium, students “meet other student artists, find connections and build relationships,” Lambert said. “They also get to talk one-on-one with college professors, which can lead to opportunities and scholarships, and it’s pretty awesome.”
“You definitely get more of a bigger picture culturally, and a lot of different inspiration,” said Wilson. “I really like the symbolic things in art — I (have thought about) being an interior designer for aircraft — and I want to get more of a handle on arts.”
Life in the arts “I want to contribute — when I leave, I want people to remember ‘Katherine did that,’ see it and use it — and I want to create (art) that lasts,” Wilson said. “I want to be well-rounded, and art helps with that.”
Merryman has wanted a career in art since kindergarten — “I like my comic book idea, and I love ceramics, (so) to do both would be a dream come true — (and) some day I want to do a full-sized sculpture of a human,” she said. “I love realism, and I love life-sized things.”
“Art is not only a pleasure for me, but a meditation,” she said. “I get stressed easily, and it’s the only way I can relax.”
“Since I was little, I was praised for my art, and having that encouragement really encourages me,” she added. “It’s the love, the passion, the creativity and the thought that (attracts me to art).”
For Fernandez, “it’s the way art really touches you,” he said. “I can feel it with the colors.”
Art is “a language, a unique way of communicating personal thoughts and feelings through beautiful masterpieces,” Borrego said. “At All-State, everyone understood that feeling, because everyone has had that experience of being hypnotized by a work of art.”