Thomson High students are sharing a little of McDuffie County with Japan. Members of Claudia Wells' art class have painted watercolors of scenes around Thomson, and will send them to Isahaya, Naga Saki, as part of an exchange program.
The program came about when Kelly Flanders, THS drama teacher, participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program last year. Mrs. Flanders spent three weeks in Japan through the program which provides American teachers with fully-funded, short-term study tours of the country in order to foster mutual understanding.
Shannon Fountain's painting of the McDuffie County Courthouse is one of the pieces of art going to Japan.
"While I was there, they asked who would like to participate in an art exchange, and I thought it was a great idea. But I couldn't volunteer at the time because I am not the art teacher," Mrs. Flanders said.
Mrs. Flanders said she took all the information, and after speaking with Mrs. Wells, she sent a letter to her contacts in Japan accepting the invitation to participate in the exchange. The Japanese students sent watercolors of scenes from their city with critiques written in Japanese under each painting.
"Their paintings had a lot of value, they were good," said Antakeyda Williams, a student in Mrs. Wells' class.
As a result of the paintings received, Mrs. Wells decided to do a watercolor unit for her students, allowing them to paint scenes of Thomson.
Mrs. Flanders took pictures of scenes around McDuffie County such as historical sites, houses located downtown, city government buildings, manufacturers and industries, schools, country scenery, paved roads, dirt roads, and railroad tracks.
The students personally chose which scene they wanted to paint. For Joshua Thomas, the choice was easy. He chose a picture of his girlfriend's house.
Members of Claudia Wells' class pose with their artwork.
"I wanted to do a good job on it, so they'd get an idea of what it's like here," he said.
Jonathan Spears wanted to give the Japanese a different impression. Jonathan chose a scene of a field with a tractor with an American flag on it.
"I wanted to show (them) the types of farm equipment we use. Plus, I wanted it to be more country-style than city. Also, the American flag shows how patriotic we are," Jonathan said.
It was Jonathan's first attempt at watercolor painting. He said the tree trunk and the rims of the tires were a challenge to him, but he enjoyed the watercolor process and hopes to do more paintings soon.
"Many of them struggled because it was their first time with watercolors," said Mrs. Wells. "But the paintings turned out really, really good. It's going to be hard to choose which ones to send."
Several paintings will be chosen and bound in a book. English teacher, Susan Hitt, and students Lindsay Murphy and Bryanna Pilgrim wrote descriptions for each painting in a third-grade reading level. Mrs. Flanders said this was done because the Japanese learn to read the American English language in school, and the Thomson students wanted the Japanese students to understand their pictures.
Before being sent to Japan, all the watercolor paintings will be featured in an art show at the high school from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29.