The Heritage High School Advanced Art students in Jon Roark's first period class have been busy this year. First the students illustrated the children's book, "A Mouse in the Academy," written by Heritage student Jacob Jaminet.
The book, the third children's book created by Heritage art students, was released at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lynchburg, Va. during First Friday festivities in December 2013.
The students' second big project, a painted piano commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in America, is currently on display at the Galleria on Main Street in Lynchburg as part of the Keys for the Hill City project.
The Keys for the Hill City public art project consists of five pianos painted by art students at Heritage, E.C. Glass, Brookville, VES and Jefferson Forest high schools on display in downtown Lynchburg through September for anyone to play and enjoy.
Roark's students finished the Beatles piano and immediately started their third big project, a mural of the James River which will be presented to the public at Lynchburg Museum during June's First Friday festivities.
The museum's focus for First Friday in June is the James River, in advance of the Launch of the James River Batteau Festival in Lynchburg on June 14, 2014. The mural will remain on display at the museum.
Roark says, "On the day they rolled out the piano, I rolled in the mural." Roark told the students they had only two weeks to complete the mural and the students rose to the challenge.
"They've done a book, painted the piano and now they're doing this mural," Roark says. "I try to run this class like a college-level art class. I want them to think ideas as much as images and to use their cognitive abilities to think outside their boxes."
Roark was honored when his class was asked to paint the mural. Five seniors in the Advanced Art class took a break from their work to talk about the class and challenges presented by Roark.
Deana Doughtry says, "I love art. It's my life. This is my favorite class." Deana plans to use her artistic skills as she pursues a criminal justice degree in college.
Duane Yuille says of Roark's class, "I love the amount of freedom he gives us to do our work." Yuille plans to attend Liberty University in the fall, majoring in computer science.
Ricardo Molina says the best things about Roark's class are, "First of all, recognition. Second, the things you learn: ideas and philosophies to better yourself." Molina's future plans include studying mechanical engineering at Central Virginia Community College.
Joshua McMillan says he enjoys "the type of stuff we work on and are involved with" in the art class. McMillan will attend Liberty University in the fall, majoring in broadcasting.
Asia Brown says, "I like how we do projects in this class. Over the course of the year, I've learned there's a lot of things I can do." Asia loves the collaboration and different types of art the students have learned.
Roark says high school art students often just copy what's on TV or in books, but he wants his students to be creative, do some research and participate in projects that require them to think.
Henry David Thoreau said, "This world is but a canvas to our imagination." Roark's students continue to rise to the challenges presented by their imaginations, both in art and life.