2 Carver art students are recognized nationally

Awards one of many successes for Towson school this year

April 19, 2005|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

At Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, the recognition keeps coming.

First, in December, a national visual arts competition announced that an unprecedented seven of its 25 finalists were from one school: Carver. In January, the College Board announced that Carver had the best Advanced Placement studio art program in the world among schools of similar size.

Then yesterday, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards announced the names of five high school seniors who will receive $10,000 each in recognition of their visual arts portfolios. Two of the five are from Carver.

"It's a lot of pressure to get something like this, because what can you do next?" said Joe Giordano, chairman of the school's visual arts department.

The students in the spotlight this time are seniors Abdullahi Farah, 18, of Owings Mills and Samuel Hooper, 17, of Timonium. They submitted paintings, drawings and sculptures to the competition, where judges did not know the name or school of the artists. Their entries were among about 7,000 nationwide.

It is extremely rare, though not unprecedented, for two winners to come from one school, said Chuck Wentzel, associate director of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, the nonprofit organization that administers the Scholastic awards.

Wentzel said that Carver, a public magnet school, has "absolutely" one of the nation's top high school art programs. Scholastic is giving Carver art teachers an award for the best group of entries to its competition of any school in the country. It is also recognizing the work of 14 Carver students in addition to Farah and Hooper.

Parents and faculty are trying to use the school's success to demonstrate to county and state officials that Carver is worthy of funding for an auditorium, music rooms and gallery exhibition space. County Executive James T. Smith Jr. did not include money for the project in his proposed budget for the 2006 fiscal year.

"We're really thrilled that the teachers and students at Carver continue to lead the state and country in the arts, and they continue to do so despite the school's inadequate facilities," said John J. Condliffe, Hooper's stepfather and vice president of the school's foundation. "The need for an auditorium and music rooms and exhibition space has been on the books for years, and the parents of Carver invite County Executive Jim Smith to join the bandwagon of public leaders endorsing the project."

Donald I. Mohler III, a spokesman for Smith, said the county executive funds projects according to the priorities of the school board and eligibility for supplementary state funds. He said the Carver project was not a top priority this year for the school board, which is focused on renovating all the county's middle schools, and it is not yet eligible for state funding.

With its existing facilities, Carver is able to offer studio space to 24 seniors, who make the area a second home and support each other in their work.

Farah found inspiration painting and sculpting images of his mother "just doing normal mother things," such as vacuuming. He is also proud of a self-portrait. Hooper's subjects are more varied: a willow tree, a female torso. He said he works through challenges in his life by expressing them through art.

Farah was one of the seven students honored in December by the Arts Recognition and Talent Search program, run by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.

"I'm just so blessed," he said of the recognition. "Hopefully, I'll be able to do [art] my whole life. I love it."

Scholastic will honor Farah and Hooper and 10 other students -- three other artists, two photographers and five writers -- in June at a ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York. Each will be awarded $2,500 a year for the next four years to use for higher education.

Farah said he is deciding between the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Hooper said he will likely attend Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The students' work will be on display from June 18 to Aug. 8 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.

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