OHS art department disbands annual creative arts fair to focus on other competitions


Mia Sinha, Staff Writer

Every year for the last few years, Oxford High School has held a Creative Arts Fair to showcase the student body’s artistic talents.

This year, however, the art department has decided on disbanding the fair.

Librarian Lynndy Hurdle said that first-year OHS art teachers and husband and wife Ebony and Duran Johnson “told me they had really phenomenal plans for the art and they were particularly interested in having the students compete in art competitions around this area and region,” said hurdle, who as librarian was host to last year’s creative arts fair. “We kind of collectively decided that in order for students to be able to focus on those art competitions, that we would not do a creative arts fair this year at the high school.”

In the past, Hurdle has served as host of the Creative Arts Fair, as the weeklong event where students displayed their work as it was judged usually took place in the OHS library.

This year, however, the art department faced a total turnover, including new teachers with new plans.

Ebony Johnson, who teaches visual arts, agrees that the art department’s focus on national level competitions is better than focusing on the local competition that wouldn’t gain as much recognition for the students in terms of portfolio submissions for college.

Johnson and her husband Duran, also a visual arts teacher, encouraged their students to enter the Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards. Oxford High’s art department collectively won 11 awards from the regional competition, and that award-winning work has been installed in the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis.

Other ways the Johnsons are trying to generate exposure for their students’ work are by planning to have a booth at the Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford this year, having more gallery spaces in the hallways of the high school, and creating digital portfolios online.

“The students now are really really interested and dedicated,” Ebony Johnson said, “and they are coming after hours and weekends, trying to really develop their portfolios.”

Winner Bhakti Patel entered her photographs in the 2015 Mid-South Scholastic competition, competing against more than 14,000 other photographs. She won a gold key (the highest honor), became a finalist and received honorable mention status.

Patel said that by focusing on entering mostly national and regional competitions versus local competitions, fewer students are recognized because of the larger pool of applicants.  At the same time, though, Patel added that it gives Oxford more recognition nationally for their art department.

“If you do enter and you win something, Mrs. Jay (Johnson) is really good about making sure everybody knows about it,” Patel said.

“She has contacted The Oxford Eagle and and is trying to get articles in there, and she is putting our work on TV screens in the (OHS) hallways. I think she is doing a pretty good job about publicizing our work.”