Celebrating the Arts

Ag and Arts Mix Well in Weakley
Posted on 04/20/2022
This is the image for the news article titled Ag and Arts Mix Well in WeakleyWith ten schools in the Weakley County system, plenty of rivalry exists among the athletes on the courts and fields. But when it comes to academics, ag, and the arts, the adopted hashtag #WeakleyStrong sets the parameters for partnerships meant to support and uplift.

Evidence of that collaborative spirit is seen this spring in the ag mechanic shops across the county. Students at Westview, Dresden and Greenfield are busy building the physical supports needed for two different countywide arts programs.

On April 30, more than 32 Upcycled Guitars as Art will be sitting on or hanging from exhibit pieces designed, constructed, and painted by ag students. Winning art from each school will be secured to canvases and spotlighted on student-constructed cubes. Signage cut from metal on CNC machines will tout the contributions of artists from preschool to 12th grade. The Art Show is part of the Weakley County Schools Arts Festival scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Martin Event Space. Two hours of musical and theatrical performances will precede the announcement of county winners at 1:00 p.m.

May 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, Romeo and Juliet will announce their love on a balcony and set built by FFA students and in a play performed by Weakley Playhouse, another collaborative effort allowing all high school students the chance to experience the theater world. Westview is the site for all the performances. A scene from the play will be included in the April 30 Weakley County Schools Arts Festival.

Even within the teachers of Ag Mechanics, the class where the building is done, collaboration is essential. Greenfield teacher Matt Humphrey initially conceived of the way to exhibit multiple guitars. Teachers Kyle Rogers at Westview and Jonathan Holden at Dresden then adapted for varying numbers of guitars and set the students to work. Holden and Rogers are also working together on the best approach to signage.

Martin Kane, director of Weakley Playhouse, points out that the involvement of ag mechanics students allowed the Shakespeare play to take on a grander scale than previous productions.

“With Romeo climbing to Juliet on the balcony and actors fighting with swords on stairs we’ve added a dimension to the show that such a classic requires,” he said. “The set being built by others meant our theater troupe could focus on details like sewing costumes from scratch. Actors, crew, and ag students will now collectively paint the set as its size is going to require everyone to pitch in.”

Emily Kelley, who plays Prince Escalus in the upcoming production, said that even with her previous experience in local community theater, she has never been a part of show with a set of such a grand scale. She sees that everyone is utilizing their skills.

“I mean, it benefits both of us. They get experience from building our set, and we get to use the set. So, it really helps us out,” she said.

FFA Chapter Officer Abigail Colarullo agrees, “It has been awesome seeing all of our ag kids being able to take part in the theater, building the set, and being able to take what we learn in the classroom and present it on stage.”

Ag Mechanics teacher Rogers notes that students who want to pursue a career in construction have gained valuable experience.

“They had to do stud assembly. They had to do porch railings. They had to do load-bearing walls. They had to know all the ins and outs of construction to help build this set safely,” he said.

FFA student Rebecca Powers sees that with the set, art show exhibit pieces and signage for the arts festival more than physical things are under construction.

“I think it’s going to be really exciting to see all the pieces that everyone made, but also just to see the whole county come together and be able to unite and appreciate the art,” Powers said.

Weakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier points to collaboration as being a frequent means to accomplish arts-related activities.

“We often must be creative to ensure that all that we want our students to experience is possible,” he said. “State funding allocates one art teacher for every 500 students. In our case that covers eight. That means to employ the eleven teachers we currently have working with students in music, visual arts, and the theater, we must use local funds. And we depend on collaborations like Weakley Playhouse and the Weakley County Schools Arts Festival to offer opportunities to celebrate the arts in a big way.”

Teacher stands in ag shop with exhibit stand and three guitars hanging from stand
Greenfield teacher and FFA Advisor Matt Humphrey designed a means to display the 32 entries in the Upcycled: Guitar as Art portion of the upcoming Weakley County Schools Art Show, a part of the Weakley County Schools Arts Festival, April 30. Ag students in Dresden, Westview and Greenfield completed the exhibit pieces. Guitars were donated by Yamaha.

four students surround an exhibit stand made of wood
Westview students (from left to right) Brent Pearce, Dustin Green, Easton Stricklin, and James Bailey helped construct and paint the exhibit pieces for the upcoming arts festival.

students paint an exhibit stand
(From left to right) Greenfield’s Chandler Finch, Drake McAlister, Carter Finch and Tanner Birdwell put on the finishing touches on the exhibit pieces that will now hold Upcycled; Guitars as Art, donated by Yamaha.

Theater stage is filled with a two-story high set depicting a scene from Romeo and Juliet
The set for Weakley Playhouse upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet is the largest the countywide theater group has utilized thus far. The set is made possible due to the skills of the Westview Ag Mechanics students who have donated hours of building over the past several weeks.

Three male students work on pipes to fashion a guitar stand
(From left to right) Austin Barnes, Reese Bell, and Gavin Cooper at Dresden are shown constructing the individual guitar stands that will spotlight the winners of the Upcycled: Guitar as Art portion of the April 30 Weakley County Schools Arts Festival.
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