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Christmas Ornament, Print Sale Places Art Education Seniors on Road to NAEA Nationals

Emily Elliot, left, senior art education major from Bogue Chitto, and Cameron Huey, senior art education major from Florence, display some of the handcrafted ornaments being prepared for sale on the MC campus Nov. 29-Dec. 3.
Emily Elliot, left, senior art education major from Bogue Chitto, and Cameron Huey, senior art education major from Florence, display some of the handcrafted ornaments being prepared for sale on the MC campus Nov. 29-Dec. 3.

Throughout the fall semester, art education students at Mississippi College gather together to fellowship, watch movies, listen to music, and prepare ceramic Christmas ornaments and linoleum prints to help fund a trip for senior students to attend the National Art Education Association’s convention in the spring.

During the sale, row upon row of brightly glazed Angels, crosses, and doves sit amongst Mississippi Choctaw arrowheads and replicas of the state of Mississippi, waiting their turn to be purchased and hung from festive holiday boughs. Handmade prints of alpacas, longhorn cows, chickadees, moths – and even a Volkswagen Beetle – suitable for framing, are lined up, ready to be gifted to a special art lover.

The sale is an annual tradition at the Christian University, but it represents even more for the art students who invest their time and talents into making the unique pieces for the event. According to Lauren Sitarz, a senior art education major from Birmingham, Alabama, it represents a labor of love.

“It’s been a wonderful experience watching the program grow,” said Sitarz, who has participated in the sale since she was a freshman and now serves as co-president of the NAEA student chapter at MC along with her classmate, Joy Powell. “Our student chapter for the NAEA meets several times beforehand to prep the clay into slabs, cut the clay into shapes, design the pieces, glaze them, and prepare them for the sale.

“One thing I absolutely love about making ornaments would be the community that is created because of it. It fosters an environment that is encouraging, uplifting, and fun – especially during a stressful time of the semester. We’re really a close-knit group, so it’s always a highlight of the semester.”

That sense of belonging is precisely what Dr. Stephanie Dickson Busbea, professor of art and Art Education Program coordinator, was looking to establish among her students through activities like the Christmas ornament and print sale.

“We’ve done this for at least 10 years,” Busbea said. “All of our students in the Art Education Program participate, and it’s a great way for them to get to know each other. They really get to bond as art education majors, and they build friendships they’re going to have for the next several years while they’re at MC – and beyond.”

The individual pieces may be labor-intensive to make, but the cost is minimal. For example, to produce the prints, students take a piece of linoleum made specifically for artists, carve out a design, roll ink onto the surface, and press it onto high-grade paper. Then they use several of the prints to make a collage.

“A lot of work is involved in that,” Busbea said, "but they're really popular and make great Christmas gifts for people. And the senior art education majors do reap the benefits of all their work.”

Those benefits include funding their trip to the NAEA convention next spring, a destination to which Sitarz has aspired since coming to MC. The 2022 convention is scheduled for New York City.

“The NAEA convention is one of the largest gatherings of visual arts, design, and media art educators in the world,” she said. “This will be my first time attending the national convention, so it will be a way for me to develop professionally, enrich my lesson plans, gain inspiration, and broaden my perspective of how art education impacts the nation.

“It’s something all art education majors at MC look forward to since our freshmen year. It’s almost a rite of passage and a sweet way to end our time here at MC.”

She said students participating in the Christmas art sale also receive valuable lessons about business.

“I’ve learned a lot of the practical aspects of fund-raising, like creating and implementing a plan to reach our goal,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work, planning, and perseverance to see the project through each year.

“As I prepare for my career as an art educator, it also inspires me to take what I’ve learned from this process and use it to raise money for my school or even non-profits.”

Busbea said a good deal of thought goes into the design of each ornament and print.

“We do offer crosses, Angels, and doves – symbols of our faith – as choices for ornaments,” she said. “I read an article recently that said Christmas may have to be canceled this year because of problems with the supply chain and getting gifts. Obviously, the author doesn’t understand what Christmas is all about.

“We celebrate Christ’s birth at this time, and in some small way, our art students want to be a part of that.”

Ornaments cost $7 apiece and matted prints cost $12 each. They will be available for sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, Nov. 29-Dec. 2, at the Caf, and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, in Alumni Hall. Cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards, and Venmo will be accepted.

Individuals can view the prints to be sold during a special “sneak peek” preview through Friday, Nov. 26, in the P200 Gallery at Pimento’s Cafe.