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Music and art mix well at Southwestern Elementary School

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RIGHT: Christopher Dillingham was honored at the Hilbert Theatre for being one of 36 students awarded a Gold Ribbon.
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Aurora Melton and Mackenzie Jackson were also recognized as being two of the 100 finalists.
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LEFT: Lacey Chase stands in front of her work of art at the Hilbert Theatre in Indianapolis. RIGHT: Christopher Dillingham was honored at the Hilbert Theatre for being one of 36 students awarded a Gold Ribbon.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Is the next Van Gogh, Monet or Georgia O’Keeffe currently attending Southwestern Elementary School?

Maybe, maybe not, but the school is building a reputation for the artwork its students produce.

The latest recognition is currently residing in the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, where the artwork of two students, second-grader Lacey Chase and fifth-grader Christopher Dillingham, is being displayed. Their art is part of an exhibit through “Symphony in Color,” a program with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Association that combines artwork with classical music.

The program provides an opportunity for Indiana students in grades 1-6 to create a piece of art inspired by and while listening to a classical piece. The association selected each of those classical pieces.

Chase and Dillingham were two of the 36 students from across the state named Gold Ribbon Award winners. There were 100 finalists named and Southwestern also had two more on that list – fifth-grader Aurora Melton and sixth-grader Mackenzie Jackson.

Chase was recognized for her tree landscape-inspired piece while listening to Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” by Ludwig Von Beethoven.

Dillingham’s piece was inspired by “Music for the Royal Fireworks” by George Friedrich Handel.

“We were all very excited, over-the-top excited,” art teacher Tori Nash said, adding that more than 11,000 students participated from across the state and 300 entries from 50 schools were turned in.

This was the eighth time that Nash had students participate, and she believed the previous teacher had students participate as well.

All 278 Southwestern Elementary students participated this year. She said when the students sat down to create their piece, they were initially thrown off by the music they were hearing.

“‘There’s no words,’” she said was their initial response. “Once they get into it, they can start to visualize it.”

The pieces of art are based off the music they’re listening to. The school is allowed to submit one entry per grade, meaning she and music teacher Michael Swigert narrowed down the student submissions.

“Yes, because I love them all,” Nash said when asked if the selection process was difficult. “He tries to look from the music aspect, if it meets the needs of the song.”

Chase and Dillingham were recognized at the Hilbert Theatre last Sunday along with the other Gold Ribbon winners. They were able to see their pieces on display, have some snacks and receive their awards.

The association also sells items such as T-shirts and mugs with their artwork printed as keepsakes, Nash said.

Their artwork will be on display in the theater until March 26. The exhibition of the 100 finalists, including Melton’s and Jackson’s, will be on display from April 2 to May 4 at the Indiana State Museum.

This year’s four students being honored continues a growing trend at the elementary. Nash said the school has had more students recognized in recent years.

“We’re molding little master artists,” she said.