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Students’ creativity on display at fest
Cole Dillinder takes a closer look at an exhibit during a reception Wednesday for the Cumming First United Methodist Church Festival of the Arts. - photo by Autumn Vetter

At a glance

The Cumming First United Methodist Church Festival of the Arts continues through the weekend, with the galleries open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

Browsing through the display of student artwork, Morgan Schindler paused and fixated on a piece with trees composed of cables and a subtle self-portrait painted underneath.

The Matt Elementary fifth-grader said she felt inspired by several of the works at the Cumming First United Methodist Church Festival of the Arts while attending the student gallery reception Wednesday night.

“It’s amazing artwork,” said Schindler, returning her gaze to the work of a high school student. “You get to see all these people’s creativity.”

In its fifth year, the church’s art festival includes musical performances, a professional art gallery, dance shows and more.

For Forsyth County students, the gallery in the lower floor opens up a showcase just for them.

Teachers from each of the 20 participating schools selected works to submit, said Kevin Whitley, an art instructor at Forsyth Central High School who helps coordinate the student gallery.

Art teachers have told him “this is the big show that their students look forward to ever year.”

“It’s special to any kid, no matter what their age … to have their work displayed” Whitley said. “It’s important for our students to have that experience.”

The gallery also presents an opportunity for local students to be recognized and even earn awards and cash prizes for their creations.

John Hutchinson, director of the festival, presented the majority of the student awards Wednesday, adding that the church award and audience choice will be decided at the show’s end Sunday.

Nicole Brazier, a Lakeside Middle School student, took top prize for her division with a pencil drawing “Self Portrait of Me and My Dog.”

She’s been creating the realistic depictions of people from photos for just a few months and was thrilled with the recognition.

Several people gathered around the piece after the awards ceremony to congratulate Brazier, who showed other drawings she’d made of actors on her phone.

Her golden retriever, Shadow, was the inspiration for the winning work.

“He’s kind of my little star,” Brazier said.

Another winning artist’s piece, a more light-hearted self-portrait, hung on the wall opposite of her drawing.

Brandon Afroozi’s “Studmuffin,” which showed himself with a mustache painted on his finger, took second prize in his division.

The Otwell Middle eighth-grader said he didn’t have a name for his work, so his teacher created the title.

Afroozi, who has had artwork displayed at the show before, said he enjoys being part of the gallery.

“It gives all of the students a good opportunity to get ready for the big-time shows,” he said.