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Sculpting a cultural lesson | Sampson Independent

MIDWAY – Young students at Midway Middle School got to experience Native America art on Thursday, as guest artist Senora Lynch taught classes as part of an ongoing special program from the Sampson Arts Council.

This program was funded through the Sampson Arts Council and Anonymous Trust Fund to increase students access to diverse art in their classroom. Lynch was the third guest artist the Arts Council scheduled to visit Sampson County Schools following Greg Whitt, with Drum for Change, and the Fayetteville Symphony.

Lynch is a distinguished Haliwa-Saponi potter who has won the likes of the North Carolina Heritage Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the River People Music and Culture Fest. She’s renowned for her unique and nationally-recognized hand-coiled pottery. Her work has even garnered a permanent spot in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

“I first want to say thank you to Sampson County Schools for giving me this opportunity to be here,” Lynch said. “I think it’s important to bring cultural arts out to schools to share and to let kids know that there’s a big group of people with diverse cultures around them.”

“A lot of time, Native American culture is not presented, shown or even taught in some classrooms,” she said. “I do think that is changing and that people are coming around and into making a difference in how we’re taught about Native American history.”

As part of her visit, she had Midway Middle students learning the techniques of how her people make pottery. She taught them hand-coiling techniques and how they make pinch pots and bowls. They also had clay projects where they made turtles and learned scratching skills for designing art onto that clay.

These techniques were one that Lynch developed herself, which led to success, but for Lynch her work has always been about teaching the ways of her culture and its importance.

“I think it’s important to tell our story and our history,” Lynch said. “Through my designs I teach them about the land, mother earth, the creator and all their importance; just letting them know that we collect a lot of things from nature and use natural resources for everything. ”

“I also taught them that in their own kitchen, there’s dishes made of clay which they do not even know because they’re covered with glazes,” she said. “So I taught them that our people would go get natural resources like that clay to make our dishes, which we still use today, which shows how important it is.”

Sampson County Schools staff expressed how pleased they were to expand the curriculum and infuse it with arts and culture.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for them to not only learn about Native American culture and heritage, but it was also a great experience to work with clay,” Midway Middle art teacher Lesley Bowden said. “Clay is a medium that we do not get to spend a lot of time (on) because there’s cost involved and things of that nature so this gives them a chance to have that.”

“It’s also good for another instructor to come in to give them another form of expertise and experiences for them to learn from,” she said. “It was really nice to be able to couple together and work as a team with my students, I enjoyed it. My only wish is that she could’ve stayed all day long and worked with every class. ”

“I know the students have gotten a lot out this week,” said Valerie Newton, director of Communication and Family Engagement for Sampson County Schools. “It’s been a new experience for them and not something they’d typically be exposed to in the classroom or as part of their regular curriculum.

‘Having a guest artist come in and share their heritage with students and also give them a history lesson at the same time while working on art projects has really made those historical lessons come to life, ”she said. “We are very, very thankful to the Sampson Arts Council and the Anonymous Trust Fund for providing the funding to be able to bring these artists into our schools.”

To find out more about Lynch and her long storied art career, she can be reached at [email protected]

Reach Michael B. Hardison at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SamsponInd, like us on Facebook, and check out our new Instagram at @thesampsonindependent.

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