Although Petal School District student Presley Rounsaville has been drawing, painting and creating many other forms of art for as long as she can remember, she admits that she lost touch with the endeavor for a short period of time.
But thanks to Shanna Britt, her eighth-grade art teacher at Petal Middle School, that passion was rekindled once again in the classroom – and just in time, as Rounsaville recently earned Honorable Mention in Secretary of State Michael Watson’s “Promote the Vote” program.
Because of her win in the program – which encourages students to use their voice at the ballot box by voting in the mock election and participating in art and essay contests – Rounsaville’s work was displayed in the state Capitol, where she was able to meet Watson with her work in early March.
“I got in Mrs. Britt’s class, and I started creating all kinds of things and experimenting with different types of medias,” said Rounsaville, who will start as a freshman at Petal High School in the upcoming school year. “I think she’s the one who helped me discover that I really love art.
“So it was very honoring that I was chosen for that, over all the people in Mississippi that probably had submitted for it. It was very cool to go up there and see all the other people that have been chosen for the same thing that I was, and see all of their work and hear all of their essays. It was just a very honoring experience.”
For art submissions for kindergarten to 12th-graders, participants in Promote the Vote were asked to use the theme of “Proud to be a Mississippian,” expressing their patriotism and creativity by designing artwork depicting civic responsibility and voter participation.
Students were advised to create an art piece featuring history, community, industry, people, nature, or any positive idea the student had on being a proud Mississippian.
For her submission, Rounsaville – who was competing against sixth-graders through eighth-graders from across the state – created a mixed-media piece with a collage of Mississippi atlases for the background, along with a pencil-and-paper drawing of the state. Inside the state can be found many well-known icons of Mississippi, including a lighthouse and a mockingbird.
“There were so many things,” Rounsaville said. “So I drew the outline of Mississippi and drew a bunch of things in there that it represented, such as the magnolia.
“I drew a blues guitar, and just other things that people think of when they think about Mississippi and what’s beautiful about it. I got that inspiration because I think Mississippi is a very interesting place, with all kinds of aspects to focus on.”
To get ready for the competition, Rounsaville worked on the piece for about two weeks, with Britt’s input.
“She’s an enthusiast; she loves art so much,” Britt said. “I like to call her one of my ‘unicorns,’ because I’ve had her for two years, and everything she does, she takes so much time with.”
Because this was the first time Petal Middle School had participated in the program, Britt wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But she was glad to know that everyone else got to see the potential and talent that comes through her classroom.
“It’s really not me; I feel like more of a wallflower, because these kids have so much creativity,” she said. “They just need that space to let it be free and work with, and when I give them art competitions, I feel they really thrive in that.
“So I feel like it’s just really elevating and showcasing that true talent that just flows freely. I would not take any credit for that, because it’s really all them and what goes on in their imaginations. They get that outlet to just really push themselves and try to be a little more competitive.”
In the future, Rounsaville would like to take part in more art competitions, hopefully nationwide.
“I just want to continue making art,” she said.