Students to decorate models of skipjacks

High schools to raise money for arts programs through competition

August 14, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Some Anne Arundel County students will learn about the history of the Chesapeake Bay through a public art project that will also raise money to keep art education programs afloat.

Through the new Sailing into the Arts program, local businesses and individuals can sponsor fiberglass skipjack sailboat models to be decked out by teams from the county's 12 high schools and three special education centers.

The school system's development office and curriculum offices came up with the idea as a way to raise money for art programs.

School system officials believed that the skipjack - Maryland's state boat - was an apt symbol for Anne Arundel County, given the proximity to water of many neighborhoods.

The sailboats were once abundant throughout the Chesapeake Bay, piloted by watermen dredging for oysters. A Calvert County artist created 15 5-foot-tall models for the project.

Showcasing talent

"This would be a way to showcase their talent and really give them exposure that they might not otherwise have," said associate development officer Stacy Pipkin.

Suzanne Owens, the school system's coordinator of art, will meet with the head of each school's art department this month to standardize the way the designs will be selected.

Each skipjack must be designed to weather the elements and be suitable for viewing by the general public, she said.

Entering the competition will be a useful exercise in creating commissioned art, Owens said. "You have to please yourself, your artistic integrity, but you also have to please your client," she said.

The models will also feature a trivia question about the skipjacks.

"We really wanted to bring the historical aspect into it so it was a learning tool for our students," Pipkin said.

Each model costs about $2,500, she said. Each participating school receives $200 to cover costs of materials for adorning the boats.

The models will be displayed around the county; several malls have expressed interest in displaying them. Those who donate $5,500 can select where to display the skipjack; for $7,500, donors can take them home after the exhibition. Models not purchased will be auctioned.

Proceeds from the project will supplement declining school budget allocations for materials.

Each school uses a lot of paint, paper and other materials, Owens said.

"Prices have doubled or tripled in the last three years, but our [instruction materials] budget has not doubled and tripled," she said.

Also, art education has expanded since 2000 to include photography and digital imaging, Owens said.

Each high school has a laboratory with 16 computers specifically for those courses, but the schools can barely keep up with the demand.

Praise from students

"Students got into the class and absolutely sang its praises," she said.

The labs create demands for materials and maintenance such as photography paper, CDs and software upgrades.

State grants such as the Maryland Fine Arts Initiative are scheduled to decrease just as the programs expand. And school board members cut a staff request for an additional $20,000 for art materials from the school system's operating budget for this year.

"I can really see the difference, just as we're growing," Owens said.

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