‘It’s good for kids to see their artwork’

Judith McBrayer, art instructor for East and West Elementary Schools, stands by the self-portraits created by sixth graders she has taught during the 2023-2024 school year. This art show is the last for McBrayer, as she prepares for retirement in May. (Cheyenne Sharp)

West, East Elementary Schools hold combined art show; final exhibition for McBrayer

CULLMAN, Ala. – On Saturday, March 9, the gymnasium at West Elementary School was packed to the brim with artwork, as third-sixth-grade students from both West and East Elementary Schools had pieces on display.

Art instructor Judith McBrayer said this year’s annual combined show will be her last, as she prepares for retirement after 19 years in the city school system. The dedicated teacher has spent nearly two decades visiting both schools, instilling a sense of artistic joy in her students.

Each class from both schools had a dedicated area to showcase their grouped creations, from Mona Lisa parodies to optical illusions and sunny mountainscapes. The students have been working on these projects since approximately January; the works are decided as soon as McBrayer meets the students and gets a feeling as to what project would best suit their personalities.

“I start planning as soon as I get them (students). I start thinking and planning what I’d like to do and what I’d like to make. I think about the classes and I’ll say, ‘This class would be suited for this,’ or ‘Yeah, this class would do well with that!’ and go from there,” smiled McBrayer.

While this art show may be the last for the instructor herself, she is confident that the long-standing tradition will continue with her successor when one is named. The show has been a staple of the schools’ and an incentive and reward for the students, a promise of praise as the inner workings of their minds are on show for the community to enjoy.

“(West Elementary School Principal) Dr. (Jay) Page and I were talking about how long we’ve had them (art shows) and we were having them when he came to West about 11 years ago; so I said anywhere from 12 to 14 years that we’ve had an art show. I’m hoping and I’m sure the next art teacher will carry on the tradition.” Gesturing to the pieces on display surrounding her, McBrayer said, “It’s good for kids to see their artwork; I mean, not everyone is a sports player. Some people are like this.”

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