The Review Appeal, 1997

Artist works with local high school students with focus on river preservation.
By Heather Hill, staff writer, The Review Appeal, Sunday, October 26, 1997

The saying states: “a picture’s worth 1000 words.”

That’s exactly what Bernice Massey, a visual artist who has traveled the world in search of feelings about river pollution, is trying to show “gifted” students at Fairview, Franklin and Page High schools.

Thanks to a grant funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Arts Commission’s, Massey is in the Franklin area to show students that the pollution being dumped into the Harpeth River is destroying its history and heritage.

“Art is a great doorway to the feeling world,” Massey said.

She hopes to provoke feelings in the students using art that was painted by other kids in both Ghana, West Africa, and in Cleveland, Ohio. Massey claims that she is “the keeper of stories,” and plans to tell students about details related to the rivers and the people she met in Africa and Ohio. With these visions and stories, students will sketch their feelings on paper and write in their journals about how the art relates to their life.

Massey Was at the Fairview High School Thursday morning to introduce herself and give the students a cursory look at the paintings and stories she carries with her on her travels.

One painting she showed to the students depicted to rivers-one clean and one dirty. The lone image seem to overwhelm the students as they saw the strife associated with the dirty river.

“This really gives you a different perspective,” said one of Massey’s students. “It makes you think.” “(The paintings) let us see that kids in other countries have the same problems as we do,” said another student.

After listening to Massey’s stories, students were asked to journal their thoughts in response to what they saw.

Massey hopes to use their writings with applying for new grant which may take her to Russia.

Massey students will also be meeting with Rita Venerable, a local environmental writer, who will help them write creatively about the environment and the Harpeth River.

Another program funded by the EPA and the Tennessee Arts Council that’s going on at the same time is creative writing taught by Mimi Herman, a writer from North Carolina.

“Bernice teaches students how to visualize using paintings, but Mimi teaches them how to visualize from within using the written word,” said Fairview gifted education coordinator Alan Smith.

Both programs are currently going on at all three high schools. Massey is also instructing students in the art department at Brentwood high school.

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