THOMASVILLE — Scholars Academy seventh grader William Casper didn’t consider himself an artist. But he likes history, so when got an opportunity to win a cash prize competition by creating a piece of art about an older person’s memory of a moment in history, he became an artist.

“I never used watercolors before this,” Casper told a group of judges as he was presenting his piece. The painting of 1960s-era downtown Thomasville has an ominous purple sky, created by a salt and watercolor process. In the foreground, tanks are being moved by train.

“(My grandfather, Zack Terry) told me about how you could see tanks being shipped by train through downtown Thomasville on their way to Miami during the Cold War,” he said.

William was one of Jessica Dell’s middle school art students working on The Memory Project, a tisktask.org initiative to connect generations by having students collect oral histories about memories related to historical events. The students then create a work of art inspired by their interview.

William won first prize for his project, followed by JJ Garmon (second place) and Isabella Ward (third place). Makayla Clark and Savannah Harpe received special recognition for taking the risk to create a dance inspired by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. Students could choose any art form and while most stuck to visual arts, some choreographed dances, composed new music, or tried a new form of visual art.

“I thought this project would be a fun end of the year change of pace for my fifth period class, but it quickly turned into a valuable experience for these students. The kids surprised me with their dedication and enthusiasm through the entire process,” Dell said.

JJ Garmon used spray paint, white out, and jar lids to create a space-themed piece of art about the Sputnik and the Space Race. “It’s what my dad had in his shed, so I figured out how to use it,” Garmon said.

At the project outset, Jack Hadley and Daniel Pittman of the Jack Hadley Black History Museum presented to students about the importance of collecting oral histories and Mr. Hadley’s own history in Thomasville. For the final presentations, Hadley and Pittman were joined by Margaret Titus, executive director of Woodleaf Senior Care, to offer feedback and award winners to student presenters.

"The Memory Project melded content, inspiration, context, application and imagination. Reflecting on how their interviews infused their art, students were clear that these inter- generational connections expanded their views of history and their roles in it,” Titus said. “They will think from a different perspective going forward and this is education at its best."

The Memory Project Winners 

First place — William Casper

Second place — JJ Garmon

Third place — Isabella Ward

Honorable mention — Makayla Clark and Savannah Harpe 

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