A creative, and needed, outlet for teachers

It’s hard to be creative when your mind is focused on specific curriculum and educating some of the area’s youngest and brightest.

Sean O’Neill, a teacher at Charlotte Country Day School, won Best in Show for his art (above) at the CCAC’s fourth annual Bite of the Apple Art Educatior’s Art Exhibit.

Sean O’Neill, a teacher at Charlotte Country Day School, won Best in Show for his art (above) at the CCAC’s fourth annual Bite of the Apple Art Educatior’s Art Exhibit.

That’s why the Civic & Cultural Arts Center of Pineville is working to encourage local art teachers to keep up the good work, and stay creative in their own regard through the fourth annual Bite of the Apple Art Educator’s Art Exhibit, running from now until Dec. 20 at the center, located at 315 Main St.

The show opened Nov. 8, featuring works of nearly 20 local art educators. The brainchild of CCAC executive director Lee Baumgarten, the exhibit was created to show off artwork of local North and South Carolina teachers and educators, encouraging the artists to work outside the classroom for their personal growth. Baumgarten and CCAC are advocates for local art education, frequently hosting portfolio programs for local high school art students, offering classes and partnering with local schools like South Mecklenburg High School.

“The purpose is to have a yearly exhibit competition so teachers can get excited,” Denise Torrance, CCAC volunteer and organizer for the event, said. “This is a good way for them to reconnect with their inner selves. What we were finding is that teachers weren’t doing any art outside of the classroom.”

The exhibit started four years ago with about 10 educators, Torrance said, in hopes to show art teachers the community supports them and to use CCAC as an outlet. Each year, the center hopes to make the exhibit bigger and better so teachers feel inspired. This year’s event recognized several teachers’ artwork, with Sean O’Neill, teacher at Charlotte Country Day School, taking Best in Show and a $375 prize in cash and gift cards. Other winners included: first place, Diane Mahafee, teacher at Lancaster High School; second place, Mehdi Sharifi, a nonprofit instructor; third place, Susan Jackson Daisley, a teacher at Providence High; and honorable mentions to Laura Fox-Wallis, teacher at Ardrey Kell High; Mary Rutherford, of Pineville Elementary; and Anita Sanchez-McGee, of River Gate Elementary.

The awards also provide a way for participating teachers to receive financial assistance to fund supply shortages in the classroom. This year’s sponsors, who provided donations of cash and gift cards, included the town of Pineville, Binder’s Art Supply, Target, Cheap Joe’s and Sam’s Club, who was a new sponsor this year.

“They just need as much support as the students do. They are so regiment with their curriculum, sometimes it’s hard to be creative,” Torrance said. “And most students are interested in what their art teachers produce. It not only validates what they are teaching, but they are professionals in their own right.”

Last year’s exhibit was moved to the Government Center in uptown Charlotte to be displayed on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools floor. Torrance and other CCAC staff are hopeful the exhibit will receive even more recognition now.

Like years past, the center will host an open house event after Pineville’s annual tree lighting ceremony, this year to be held Dec. 7, a Saturday, at 6:30 p.m. In addition, the exhibit will be open for viewing during open hours at the center – Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., though hours do fluctuate depending on availability of volunteers. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

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