‘Their work is fantastic’

Art remains key creative outlet for students at CMS

Cullman Middle School students work on watercolor paintings. (Photo courtesy of Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Though getting students to work at core subjects like math and reading are obviously critical this school year, Cullman Middle School art teacher Fharis Richter is making sure the arts aren’t lost in the shuffle for aspiring Cullman City Schools students. 
Seventh graders have spent the first few weeks of school working with graphite and developing their drawing skills. Richter noted first-year students at the middle school can often be intimidated stepping into art class, but it doesn’t take long to settle in and let the creative juices start flowing. 
“They are usually shocked at the choices that I give them, but once they settle down and start working, their work is fantastic,” she said. “I think they surprise themselves with their hidden talent.” 
For fans of the arts wanting to check out some of the pieces, seventh graders are set to display their works in the Cullman County Fair, as well as Octoberfest art competitions.   
Eighth grade students are working on painting seascapes to develop their fundamental skills. Once those pieces are finished, they’ll get a chance to choose something to paint utilizing the techniques they’ve developed those first few weeks. 
Eighth graders will continue to build on their skills and use more diverse mediums as the year goes on, including painting, block printing, photography and watercolors. By the end of the second semester, students will have started a portfolio including their work. The eighth grade students will also create panels to display outside the school for Veterans’ Day, which will join a showcase of past artwork from former eighth grade students. 
“We started this project about six years ago, when we put out a triptych honoring our veterans,” Richter explained. “The following year we added a few more panels. We have continued putting out the old panels and adding new ones each year. The students collaborate on creating them. They do everything from designing the panels, to drawing the work and painting them.  We weren’t able to do panels last year, but we plan to have them back out this year!” 
eighth grade students will also participate in the State Superintendent Art Exhibit in January. 
Richter said art can be a healthy, crucial way to process all of the emotional changes that take place during the middle school years. 
“Art is a creative outlet for the students especially when they learn that they are more than capable of learning art and talent is not a prerequisite,” Richter said. “We’ve had students create art that depicts their fishing trips, their love for a grandparent, vacations and their religious beliefs. They have worked on trying to express how they feel about being adopted, how they feel about losing a loved one, and how they felt when they lost a foster sibling. They express their interests in music, sports and designing clothing, shoes and buildings. They want to draw their pets or favorite animals, insects and reptiles.”