Congratulations to all! Connecting with the community the Sawnee Association of the Arts awards local art students during inaugural exhibition.








L to R

Aidan Wharton-4th Place poster,
Jesse Neville-3rd Place Poster,
Isabella Spagnuolo-1st Place Art,
Camden Heidt-2nd Place Art
Chariah Miller, Clara Miller-3rd Place Art,




Denmark High School senior Isabella Spagnuolo won first place for her drawing of a pair of hands grasping at fine jewelry. Her work was on display at the Cumming Arts Center.

High school student Jessie Neville accepts a certificate marking her third-place win in the Cumming Art Center’s Lantern Parade poster contest where students designed posters to advertise the Cumming Scare Fair held each October to benefit the American Cancer Society

By Sabrina Kerns

The Sawnee Association of the Arts held a celebration and awards ceremony at the Cumming Arts Center on Sunday, Jan. 30, for students taking part in its inaugural high school art exhibition.

The local art association, SSA, worked with three high schools in the county — Denmark, West Forsyth and Forsyth Central — to put together the show, bringing in student artists from each school along with high school-age students enrolled in classes at the Cumming Arts Center.

Through this partnership, the center was able to display a variety of student works throughout January

Students showcase the skills and techniques they are currently learning in their art classes.

“Even in the midst of Covid, they’ve been working really hard, so it’s really nice for the students to be able to connect with the community and have a venue to show their work,” said Kimmy Wood, a participating art teacher at Denmark. “As we’re going along, even though it’s the middle of the [school] year, it’s nice to see it up.”

The exhibition featured a variety of different works, including oil paintings, digital art, mixed media pieces and more.

Closer to the ceremony Sunday, Jan. 30, members of the SSA judged the exhibition, pinning ribbons to the top three works in the collection. Isabella Spagnuolo, one of Wood’s students at Denmark, won first place for her drawing of a pair of hands grasping at fine jewelry.

“It has a lot of different meanings …. The way they are grasping the jewelry is in a kind of delicate way,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s about being in a rich neighborhood or going to a school where there are a lot of rich kids and not being able to really grasp the wealth or not being able to have what other kids have. It’s trying to grasp it, but not quite being able to.”

Spagnuolo said she couldn’t believe she won first place for the exhibition, excited to take home the prize before finishing up high school and heading to the Savannah College of Art and Design where she plans to follow her passion.

“I’m excited,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s where I really hoped to go.”

West Forsyth student Camden Heidt won second place for her small, detailed drawing of a lion, and Cumming Arts Center student Clara Miller won third place for her mixed media piece of a chameleon.

Miller and her sister are homeschooled and take classes with Kris Straukas at the Cumming Arts Center to learn more about art and how to work with different media and techniques.

She said she decided just a few weeks before the exhibition to participate, and her family was skeptical at the time that she would be able to finish her idea for a detailed, colorful chameleon in time for the show.

But after two weeks and more than 100 hours spent drawing and coloring in, Miller said she finished just in time with a piece she was proud of.

“My wrist was very tired,” she said, laughing.

The exhibit also featured posters designed by high school students for the Cumming Scare Fair. The designs were judged by staff of the city of Cumming and House of Four Scythes Haunted Attraction.

Toward the end of the celebration, the SAA handed out certificates for the winners and participating students to congratulate them for their hard work.

Moving forward, Straukas said she hopes to expand the high school exhibition each year and give more students in the county the chance to participate and display their work in the community.

This way, students can have more experience with showing pieces in a gallery, and they can learn more about opportunities to take art classes even outside of school.

“The art teachers, especially Kimmy, she is incredible, but they have so much that they have to cram into [a semester],” Straukas said. “So I had a lot of requests from high school-aged students wanting more in-depth study to really work on portfolio work to build up for [college] admissions.”

For more information about SAA or classes available at the Cumming Arts Center, visit

Kris Straukas of the Sawnee Association of the Arts, speaks to guests at the exhibit.


Forsyth Central student Aidan Wharton receives an honorable mention for his Cumming Scare Fair poster, right.

Forsyth Central student Mallory Johnson took first place, left, for he Cumming Scare Fair poster design, while Nicholas Duncan placed second and Jesse Neville‘s poster, right, took third place.

West Forsyth student Camden Heidt won second place for her small, detailed drawing of a lion. Cumming Arts Center student Clara Miller won third place for her mixed media piece of a chameleon.