Off the Wall Celebrates Community Partnership with Art

By: Vivian Duncan

Cargill, a major agricultural company and the largest privately held corporation in the United States, celebrated its fourteenth Off the Wall art program in late September, with a reception for twelve Newnan High School artists whose artwork will hang at Cargill’s Newnan plant for the next year.

The Off the Wall art program is a partnership between Cargill and Newnan High’s art program. Cargill’s Brad Down and the Coweta County School System began the partnership with the help of Silvia Edmondson and Heather Jennings. It is designed to encourage and promote artistic achievements of students and to continue their development as artists.

From Left to Right: Mrs. Hobbs, Lee Patterson, Isabella Barlow, Jalia Robinson, Leah Prisk, Kiley Anderson, Vivian Duncan, Chloe Gwinn, Courtney Lewis, Mrs. Jennings and Alexis Westrick. Not pictured: Kaitlenn Brown, Sharliett Cardenas, Alex Gonzalez, Autumn Lovingood, Kenya Powell and Taylor Whitaker.

The partnership started when Heather Jennings was an art teacher at Ruth Hill Elementary School, but the partnership moved with her when she moved to Newnan High School.

Each year, students create art in class following the curriculum based assignments. Art teachers collect works with varied themes from each class and present them to Cargill representatives, who then make the final twelve selections. Cargill frames these selections and displays them in the meeting room throughout the next year.

In return for the use of the students’ art, Newnan High’s art program receives a monetary donation which goes directly to the school’s art program.

At the next year’s show, Cargill will return the previous year’s framed artwork to the student artists that created it. Cargill has featured over a hundred student artists throughout the years since the program has been in place. Additionally, Cargill has made numerous donations across various art programs in Coweta schools through the partnership.

The students’ artwork consists of portraits, landscapes, detailed charcoal pieces, mosaics, sculptures and paintings, giving Cargill a variety of decor in their facility. All pieces get professionally framed by a local framer, Fine Line Art and Framing, to help preserve the artwork for the rest of the artists’ lives and to also support local businesses.

The event consisted of a reception in the meeting room, where the art was displayed for viewing and artists are recognized. Representatives from both Cargill and Newnan High give a short speech about the importance of their partnership, and then guests are released to the cafeteria for an immense spread of tasty refreshments.

“The food and desserts were especially good,” said Kiley Anderson, NHS senior and art student featured in Off the Wall. Her art piece, a portrait of a woman done in oil pastel, will be on display at the facility for the next year.

People from all over the world will view the students’ art in the facility, and their artwork will be admired and appreciated over the year that it is displayed. This event is “a great link for our community and an opportunity for international exposure,” Heather Jennings, NHS Art teacher, noted.

“This program gives the support and encouragement needed to show students that they can go wherever they want to go with their lives,” she explained. “I love the way that my students’ faces light up when they see the positive reaction to their artwork.”

The teachers are not the only ones who feel gratification. The students also gain a great sense of pride from the privilege of being chosen.

Alex Gonzalez, NHS junior, said “my favorite part was and always will be when the teacher talks to you specifically and tells you how proud they are of you.”