Wednesday, May 21, 2008

8-year-old's artwork earns display at Kennedy Center, on national tour

By ANDY HUMBLES • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • May 21, 2008

Good evening all. Tonight I decided to forget all the bad things going on all around us and find some great Human Interest Stories. This story really got to me and made me think about how much we can all really learn from children..I hope you enjoy as much as I did...And Alexandria Congrats!! Congrats also to Elizabeth for her contribution!

Alexandria Williams, 8, is a student at Tennessee School for the Blind in Donelson.

About the group

VSA arts is an international organization that helps people with disabilities learn through participation and enjoy the arts.

VSA stands for:

Vision of an inclusive community.
• Strength through shared resources.
• Artistic expression that unites us all.

Alexandria Williams, an 8-year-old student at Tennessee School for the Blind in Donelson, wears almost a permanent smile.

"Just a fun student,'' teacher Ginger Bell said about Lexie, as most call her.

But the smile on Alexandria's face resonated joy a little deeper when she talked about the way she feels now that her artwork is part of an exclusive national tour.

"I like to make art,'' Alexandria said, the tone and smile more convincing than the words.

Alexandria loves to draw, said her mom, Taronda Williams. But it was a drum and mallet that she made as part of an art project in which different artists came to the school to work with students earlier this year.

VSA arts was the group leading the project, and Alexandria's work was one of two pieces to be selected for a chance to be exhibited at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Alexandria's work was chosen for that exhibition, then it was picked as the Tennessee representative for a 2-year-national tour as an extension Kennedy Center exhibit. Alexandria was one of 10 artists from the exhibit to receive an expenses-paid trip, with an adult chaperone, to be honored May 20 at a reception on Capitol Hill.

"When they called, I thought she had drawn something, because that's all she does in her room,'' Taronda Williams said. "When they said it was something she made, it just blew my mind.''

VSA sent several artists to work with 47 School for the Blind students at different times after receiving a grant from CVS Pharmacy, said Doug Walker, assistant technology specialist at the school and a VSA board member.

Sessions included:

• Art, in which students did a mosaic of different elements.

• Auditory art, in which students made drums and mallets or rain sticks.

• Drumming sessions that emphasized music and rhythms.

• Performing arts, working with the school's Junior Forensics team.

Different students participated in different sessions, Walker said.

Alexandria's entry was part of the auditory art session under teacher Yvette Parish.

"The color of the fabric, along with the feathers and the beads and all those things, just flowed together,'' Walker said of the project.

Alexandria is legally blind, with 20-200 vision with correction, her mom said. Alexandria was born with glaucoma and cataracts. Doctors prepared parents Taronda and Doug Williams, saying Alexandria may be totally blind. Both parents plan to go to Washington, Taronda said.

School for the Blind student Elizabeth Harden, 15, also had her mosaic picked for submission to the Kennedy Center.

VSA chose two pieces for submission from Tennessee. Each state and the District of Columbia had one piece chosen for the national tour out of about 300 submissions.

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