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Sharing the gift

Senora Lynch (left) of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe joins with Millie True as they weave pine needle baskets during Saturday’s Community Arts Day held at the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center. Staff Photo by Amanda VanDerBroek

JACKSON — For Senora Lynch of Warrenton the most important aspect about art is passing it on to others.

“We’re good at sharing,” she said about artists in general. “I was taught when we learn something we should share it.”

For 10 years Lynch, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe who is well-known for her pottery, has been passing her craft as well as her culture to students all across North Carolina.

Last week, she brought that knowledge to Northampton County. Lynch and Weldon artist Timothè Windstead were the artists in residence for Northampton County Community Arts Day.

On Saturday, the event featured displays from 10 Northampton County artists and an art competition for students from Northampton County Schools, Northeast Academy and KIPP Pride. Each year, Community Arts Day, which is supported by a Grassroots grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, brings an artist in residence to work with students at local schools.

Lynch said last week she made clay turtles with fourth graders at Central Elementary, Gaston Elementary and Willis Hare Elementary schools. Meanwhile, Windstead, a charcoal artist, worked with students at Northampton County High School-West/STEM in October.

For three years the program has been bringing art to the county’s school children who typically do not have the opportunity.

According to Judy Collier, Chairperson of the Northampton County Cultural Arts Committee, the county only has two art teachers, at Conway Middle School and Northampton County High School-East.

“It’s always bothered me that the students don’t have any cultural arts offered in schools,” she said.

Community Arts Day Coordinator Rhonda Holmes, who is one of those two art teachers in the county, said the lack of art education not only exists in Northampton County, but other places as well. She noted how art education helps to improve other subject areas for students as well as gives them a place to start on ingenuity.

“I think it’s important to provide an avenue for kids to become creative,” she said.

Lynch recalled when she was a child going down to the river and collecting clay to mold into something. Back then it was a common pastime, but that craft has become Lynch’s passion. Her work is displayed in the Smithsonian Museum and she became the youngest person to earn a Heritage Award in 2007.

For Lynch, art exists in everything.

“Art is life,” she said. “Everything around us is art.”

She also spoke about the importance of art in schools.

“I can’t imagine school without art,” she said “It helps them to be themselves and it helps to bring joy into their lives.”

Windstead said he enjoyed his time with the students at NCHS-West/STEM.

“Each student brought his (and her) own style and personality to the table,” he said.

Windstead noted the significance of not only art in schools, but in each person’s life.

“This room should be full right now,” he said. “We don’t have enough art and culture in the county and state. Without an artist nothing exists.”

The local artist participating in Community Arts Day were Myrna Elliott, Millie True, Samuel McCoy Baugham, Leroy Edwards, Sonya Boone, Michael Hewitt, Johnny Shelton, Mary Rice and Karmane Williams.

The winners of the art contest are as follows:

1st Natajha Phillips from NCHS-West/STEM

2nd Tyshaun Benjamin from KIPP Pride

3rd Wesley Bradshaw from Conway Middle School