Byranna Grice was one of more than 200 third graders inside the Columbia Museum of Art March 4. And she was having fun.
“I learned what a portrait is today,” she said.
Grice, along with her classmates from Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3’s St. James Gaillard Elementary School, were cutting out printed pictures of characters from the book, All Around Town: The Photographs of Richard Samuel Roberts. They then created their very own stories about them.
“Mine is about a brother and a sister,” said Grice of her project.
On March 4, a new literacy initiative titled All Around Town: All Around the State was launched with the goal of bridging the third grade reading gap, enhancing student awareness of the arts and teaching South Carolina history. This will be primarily accomplished by using the works of Roberts, a famous photographer who chronicled the lives of African-American citizens in Columbia during the 1920s and 1930s with pictures.
All Around Town was co-sponsored by Claflin University, the Columbia Museum of Art, the Richland Library and Family Medicine Centers of South Carolina, P.A.
Dr. Peggy Ratliff, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Claflin marveled at the sight of the large groups of Orangeburg County children as they made their way through the museum doors. “This is a wonderful collaborative effort that Claflin has co- sponsored,” said Ratliff. “It will improve learning for third grade students across South Carolina. All Around Town is a fine example of how Claflin supports the arts, the community at-large and especially education,” she said.
Through the end of April, school districts in Orangeburg, Fairfield, Calhoun and Richland Counties will visit the Museum and participate in All Around Town. The program curriculum includes a presentation from University of South Carolina professor Dinah Johnson, author of All Around Town, a tour of the museum’s photography exhibit, story time, a tour of the Richland Library and an art workshop utilizing Roberts’ photographs.
Claflin University Department of Art chair and curator of the Arthur Rose Museum, Alvin Staley, watched as many of the children created their art projects. He couldn’t resist the temptation to provide exciting and positive feedback to the youngsters as they fashioned the cut-outs of the book characters. “One of the most amazing things to witness is art taking shape at the hands of a child,” said Staley. “This initiative is a new beginning for many of these children; exposing them to wonderful stories and giving them the freedom to use their imagination,” he said.
OCSD 3 was the first to take part in the exhibit. For OCSD 3 Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Cash-Greene the program’s emphasis on literacy reinforced what her district is making a top priority. Cash-Greene was happy the children were thoroughly entertained and engaged by Johnson’s presentation, which included singing and reading aloud with the author.
“As we provide opportunities for our children to write, we hope that seeing a real author will be a positive step for them,” said Cash-Greene. “This will teach and motivate our kids to write. Claflin is a great institution that ensures images of our African-American history remain a vital part of our culture.”