More than 100 pieces of art will be on display through Feb. 5 during the Seven-Up+ 2023 art show at the Mattawoman Creek Art Center.

The show — which has been held for more than 25 years — highlights the work of students of the seven Charles County Public high schools and the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center. CCPS art teachers are invited to select five pieces created by students to bring to the show.

Chris Cox, an art teacher at La Plata High School, uses a digital level to hang a drawing for the Seven Up+ art show at the Mattawoman Creek Art Center. Credit: Charles County Public Schools

“I look for quality,” Leith Phillips, a St. Charles High School teacher of art and photography, said of how she chooses what makes it into the show. “You can tell when a student puts time and effort into a piece. You want to appreciate that and give students some recognition for doing that.”

Andrew Wodzianski, an art instructor at the College of Southern Maryland, will judge the show. Prizes will be given out for first, second and third place in the categories of black and white drawing, colored drawing, mixed media, painting, photograph and sculpture.

“Having the kids be able to present their art in a juried show in a professional space — for some of them this will be the only time they would be able to do that,” Tim Bodamer, CCPS content specialist for the fine and performing arts, said. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to do that.”

A reception and awards ceremony are Sunday, Jan. 22, at the art center from 1 to 4 p.m. The center is in Smallwood State Park in Marbury with the show open through Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Christin Downie, an art teacher at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center, prepares materials for the Seven Up+ art show at the Mattawoman Creek Art Center. Credit: Charles County Public Schools

The center holds shows throughout the year featuring the work of local and regional artists. For the past two years, a small number of select works from CCPS middle school artists are showcased in December during the center’s annual holiday show. According to center representatives, the Seven-Up+ show is the most attended single show at the center, Bodamer said.

CCPS art teachers stoke the importance of art in their students’ lives. “You have to do math, you have to do science,” Phillips said. “Art class is a space where you can come and be creative. It doesn’t matter how well you do, just be in that creative space.” Christin Downie relays the same message to her students at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center. “It’s not about being perfect, it’s a good outlet to be present and tune out some of the other garbage they have going on. Kids have so much going on every day, everyone does,” she said. Downie teaches two students with ceramic works in the show. Being in the show is seen as an accomplishment, she said. “It’s built their confidence and it’s cool to give them some exposure, being in the alternative school they don’t feel seen or confident,” Downie said.  

Beyond expressing creativity, art classes can bring out a person’s other skills. “It helps build critical thinking that they don’t even realize they are building,” Phillips said. “They have to problem solve while figuring out how to approach an assignment.”

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