A St. Charles High School art teacher is experiencing what it’s like to be the subject of a work, rather than the creator. Shelton Hawkins recently landed on the cover of Shore Magazine, a publication centered on the people and way of life on the Eastern Shore. The magazine named Hawkins one of the local millennials making a difference in the world.

He said the cover and accompanying article are a result of projects he embarked on during the COVID-19 quarantine.

“I used the time to really focus on finding my voice, standing up for what I believe in,” Hawkins said. “I feel it’s important to try and give back to the community.”

He worked with Converse on a COVID-19 campaign, and he was the project manager for a painting of the words “Black Lives Matter” on Race Street in Cambridge. The painting of the street was completed by community members and its design, created by Eastern Shore artist Miriam Moran, incorporated the Maryland flag and an image of Harriet Tubman, Hawkins’ great-great-great aunt. 

“I am so excited about all the projects he’s affiliated with,” said Leith Phillips, art chair at St. Charles and Hawkins’ former high school teacher. “I knew when I asked him if he wanted to interview [for a teaching position], he would be an asset to Charles County and the students he would come in contact with.”

Using art to strength community ties

Long before the quarantine of 2020, Hawkins was invested in his community. 

A third year teacher at St. Charles, Hawkins is also a working artist who refurbishes outdoor basketball courts with art. The concrete canvases meld two of his loves — basketball and art.

The endeavor — Play in Color — started in his hometown of Easton after Hawkins noted that the once bustling basketball court in Idlewild Park sat dormant. Working with local leaders to secure funding, the courts at Idlewild Park and another at Moton Park were expanded, resurfaced and painted in the summer of 2019. The colorful designs are part of a national art movement transforming neglected courts into pieces of oversized and useable art meant to strengthen community bonds.

Hawkins said it was Phillips who helped him figure out he didn’t have to decide between art and basketball. “Shout out to Ms. Phillips,” he said. “She showed me that I could be into art and basketball.”

“He was a great kid with a lot of energy,” Phillips remembered about meeting Hawkins in his sophomore year of high school. They struck a deal back then — if he made the effort to devote an hour of class to his artwork, he could spend the last 30 minutes in class decompressing.

At the time, Hawkins didn’t think his art was any good. “I always told him that it’s about the process and how art makes you feel,” Phillips said. “Everyone has a voice when creating art.”

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