Bob Lanier has loved to draw since he was a small child.
As Bell Jeweler’s in-house jewelry designer, he has been able to turn the swoops and curly lines of his pencil drawings into a career of designing and making fine jewelry. But, not every creative kid knows how to turn their talents into a job.
The mission of the sixth annual Express Yourself Arts Conference held earlier this month at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro is to do exactly that – give high school students the opportunity to see how successful business people, like Lanier, have turned their talents into a life-long career.
On Nov. 8, high-school students from all over the county had the opportunity to work and talk with creative professionals about turning their passions into a career.
The arts conference, a collaboration of the Business Education Partnership Foundation, Read To Succeed and Arts in Rutherford made possible by grants received from Middle Tennessee Electric Customers Care Inc. and The Adams Family Foundation, is all about getting teenagers to understand that their artistic talents don’t have to be accessories to their futures.
“It is thrilling to hear how much students received from this experience,” said Lee Rennick, executive director of the Busines Education Partnership Foundation, one of the organizers of the event. “One said she hit a higher note than she had ever hit in Charlie Parker’s voice class and another was excited she learned to draw a human body in Lauren Rudd’s fashion illustration class. These are the kinds of stories that make the whole event worthwhile. It gives the kids confidence to pursue their dreams.”
Additionally, it aims to encourage these students to explore, practice, and hone their skills, from painting to sculpture, writing to dance, music to theater.
Workshops were broken down into five tracks: literary arts, performing arts, performing arts and the dabbler for those wishing to explore a number of different areas.
Each workshop leader has years of experience in their chosen field and they were excited to share their wisdom with local students through hands-on activities.
“I never realized how many opportunities there were for people with creative minds until I saw the variety of occupations represented at the Express Yourself Arts Conference,” said one student participant. “My favorite was Honor Raconteur. Such excellent writing advice, such witty encouragement. She was a joy to learn from.”
Besides the workshops, a panel discussion was held on the “Business of Art,” with members of the business community. Included on the panel were graphic designer Sheana Firth, furnishing design specialist Marianne Miller, Screen Art owner Mike Bickford, Latin Grammy-nominated sound engineer J.C. Monterrosa, and jewelry designer Bob Lanier.
This discussion was followed by a conversation with Pat Blankenship, who is a lawyer and the founder of Children’s Academy Theatre of Tennessee, a division of Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities, about arts advocacy.
She discussed what students can do now to insure the future of the arts in the county and beyond.
During the painting class, Chris Weeks, from Painting with a Twist, showed students simple techniques for giving depth to a landscape of trees.
Each student was allowed to give free reign to their talents as they used his lesson to paint their own landscape.
Students in the visual arts track also got to learn sculpting techniques from Kay Curie and Lewis Snyder from Studio S Pottery.
Performing arts track students were given the chance to work out their aggressions, without actually hurting anyone, during a class on stage combat conducted by Greg Wilson, who has acted and directed at Lamplighter’s Theater in Smyrna. Fake bruises could have been artfully applied by any member of the class after a stage make-up class by Georgia Career Institute instructors Irma Brown and Sharon Michon.
The dabblers worked up an appetite in a salsa class led by Middle Tennessee State University dance instructors Paco Ramos and Angela Armstrong. Last year, the hot class was African dancing, and this year, it was Latin dancing.
As a special treat, participating students also heard via Skype from members of the design team at Nissan Design America, which creates the interior and exterior look of American-made Nissan vehicles. This group has also designed everything from kindergarten furniture to the look and feel of the ICON, a personal light aircraft.
“This conference has had a real impact on participant’s lives,” Rennick said. “We have learned from evaluations that participating students have been inspired to complete high school and make plans for post-secondary education because the artists with which the students interacted at EYAC let it be known how important advanced education was to their success.”
For more information about the conference, visit www.rutherfordbep.org.