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Ahfachkee artists glow in Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki spotlight

Ahfachkee School student Lauren Doctor shows younger children their artwork on exhibit in the Mosaic Gallery at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress. The 26 pieces will be on display through May 22.
Ahfachkee School student Lauren Doctor shows younger children their artwork on exhibit in the Mosaic Gallery at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress. The 26 pieces will be on display through May 22.

BIG CYPRESS — A generous amount of art supplies and the eager hands of Ahfachkee School students proved a perfect recipe for artworks that make up the newest art exhibit at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress.

“You guys are awesome,” Rebecca Fell, curator of exhibits, told a gathering of student-artists at the show’s opening reception March 11.

Presented through May 22 in the Mosaic Gallery, the show features 26 pieces that illustrate student knowledge and personal application of works by “the masters,” said art teacher Ivette Lopez.

Lopez said the children learned about some of the world’s greatest 19th- and 20th-century artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, M. C. Escher, Paul Klee, Keith Haring and Wassily Kandinsky whose works propelled art movements such as cubism, expressionism and modernism.

“Our students learned about the artists’ techniques, lives, artworks and art styles and by that, they were inspired. That way, they connect to the arts, appreciate art and want to do art,” Lopez said.

Students borrowed from the masters to create their own expressive art that ranged from Eden Jumper’s Picasso-inspired untitled ink on paper that can be imagined as a man’s graceful bow to nature to Lauren Doctor’s simplistic van Gogh-esque “Sunflowers” rendered in a vase painted in Seminole colors.

High school student Dasani Cypress said the art classes gave her plenty of ideas for taking something simple, like her own handprint, and turning it into something personal and artful.

Her untitled painting on paper, inspired by several artist techniques, serves as the exhibit centerpiece.

To arrive at the finished product, Dasani said she cut around her hand on construction paper then dismembered the paper hand parts into sections. She employed collage to paste the parts on paper, cubism to place them strategically and monochromatic colors to make a bold but simple statement.

“My idea was not original but making the art abstract and from me made it different,” Dasani said. “I like the color scheme. To me it is organic and calming.”

Ahfachkee assistant principal Gwendolyn Coverson congratulated the students and awarded each with certificates of achievement. On the boardwalk veranda outside the Museum, the children and adult guests were treated to pizza and peanut butter roll-ups and lemonade.

Paul Backhouse, director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, deemed the show “very cool.”

“To see the faces of the children right here at the Museum and their work on exhibit is what this place really is. It is a museum but it also about today. It is the Seminole people,” Backhouse said.

Ewanteke Roberts, 7, is one of the youngest artists with work on display but her night sky-inspired mixed media piece is not her first creation to go public. A clay tile she painted last year is one of scores from Ahfachkee school children that make up the base for the bronze sculpture “Florida – A Seminole Girl” on the New River in Fort Lauderdale.

The second-grader said she used her imagination to see a shooting star, the moon, a chickee and a fire in dark shadows against the midnight blue sky. Then she got busy with scissors, paper, paint and glue. And she made her mother proud.

Lenora Roberts, an award-winning sweetgrass basket and patchwork artist who attended the show’s reception, was nearly speechless.

“It’s overwhelming to see my daughter’s talent and passion for art already. Now, what I have always seen at home is for everyone else to enjoy,” Roberts said.