Story by Anu Sukhdial, Stillwater PTA Council
The famous French impressionist painter, Edgar Degas, said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” The artistic works submitted this year by Stillwater Public School (SPS) students for the 2019-2020 PTA Reflections Arts-in-Education program engaged all our senses, forced us to look closer, and think more deeply about the creative process.
Established in 1969, PTA Reflections is a one-of-a-kind national arts program that encourages students to explore the arts and express themselves by giving positive recognition for their artistic efforts. Unlike other art programs that primarily focus on the visual arts (e.g. drawing, painting, sculpture), PTA Reflections invites students to explore all forms of artistic expression including literature, photography, film/video production, music composition, dance choreography, and the visual arts. There is even a special artist division to encourage students with special needs to get involved.
Locally, the program is coordinated by the Stillwater PTA Council, which includes among its members the six SPS PTA-affiliated schools: Highland Park Elementary, Skyline Elementary, Will Rogers Elementary, Stillwater Middle School, Stillwater Junior High, and Stillwater High School. This year, the Council received submissions from 110 students from Pre-K through 12th grade across all the various arts categories; among these, 48 works were chosen by local art professionals and experts to advance to the state level of competition conducted by the Oklahoma PTA.
Every year, the national PTA selects a theme to serve as a springboard for students’ creativity and imagination. The 2019-2020 PTA Reflections theme is “Look Within.” Submissions are judged on three main criteria: 1) original/unique interpretation of the theme (based on the work itself as well as an artist statement that accompanies each work); 2) creativity and 3) technique.
All participants and city-wide winners were recognized at the Annual PTA Reflections Awards Assembly held on December 6th at the Stillwater High School Performing Arts Center. A gallery showcase of the winning works was displayed in the foyer for all to enjoy during the holiday season. This year, winning entries included a painting that captures a student’s dream to become a cellist, a color photograph of a young baby looking inside a dollhouse, a short story about a “boy with no eyes” and home movies featuring experimental and stop motion animation techniques.
Special Guest for the evening was Mr. Damon Blalack, filmmaker and Executive Director of the Red Dirt Film Festival. He shared advice with the students/families gathered in assembly about the importance of finding one’s passion, networking with others to gain more experience, and the value of perseverance.
The Stillwater PTA Council encourages all current participants and students, who may have never participated in a program like Reflections before, to get involved in the 2020-2021 PTA Reflections program. Please contact your local school PTA for further details around August 2020 regarding the 2020-2021 Reflections program.
To all the students out there: Whether it is painting, making movies, writing poetry, or composing music, we encourage you to imagine, create, and show us the world as you see it. It is sure to be a transformative experience for both the artist and the viewer of the art.