PANAMA CITY – Few names are as synonymous with fine arts in Panama City as Paul Brent, who was recently honored by the Florida Arts in Education Association (FAEA) as this year’s Arts Education Friend.
Brent received the award at the FAEA Annual Meeting in Orlando for organizing and promoting an annual art competition for fourth graders at Bay County schools – the Paul Brent Fourth Grade competition Endangered Species – which has been going on for 29 years.
“It’s a wonderful initiative that combines art and science in a beautiful and effective way,” said Jayson Kretzer, executive director of Bay Arts Alliance, just ahead of the 29th annual show in January at the Panama City Center for the Arts. “And this has been a tradition in Bay County schools for so long that we are starting to see second generations come and show their art on our walls, just like their parents before them.
Each year, Brent selects an endangered Florida animal for the students to represent in any medium of their choice. He is the judge of the competition and awards prizes to the best student artists from each school, as well as a grand winner. In addition, a prize for the most creative school project is also awarded, highlighting the efforts of teachers.
“When my wife, Lana Jane Lewis-Brent, and I first envisioned this event, we knew that if we started with just one class in schools, every student in Bay County would end up having the experience of creating a work of art that they could be proud of, ”Brent said of the annual competition and art show. “Now the first group of student artists are now 39 years old and can pass on their interest in both saving the environment and creating a work of art to their children. “
According to a press release, Brent was selected for this honor by the FAEA from an array of arts supporters who enhance the educational experience for art students statewide.
Over the years, many wildlife have been featured in the competition including the gopher turtle, Florida panther, manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, butterflies, marsh frog, red wolf, eagles and pelicans. In 2020, the competition spotlighted humpback whales, fin whales, and right whales found off the coast of Florida. For 2021, the focus has shifted to Gulf sturgeon.
“The beauty of our environment and the creatures that inhabit it are extremely important to the health and economic well-being of our community,” said Brent. “This competition has allowed more than 1,000 students each year to express their understanding through art.
The mission of the Florida Art Education Association is to promote the education of the visual arts in Florida through professional development, service, advancement of knowledge, and leadership. FAEA promotes quality education in visual arts education delivered by certified art instructors. The organization also promotes research in arts education; holds public debates; sponsors institutes, conferences and programs; publishes articles, reports and surveys; and works with other related organizations in support of visual arts education.
The Friend of Florida Arts in Education Award is presented to an individual who has provided significant support and / or service to arts education in Florida. Membership is not required for this price.
FAEA faculty members gathered with Brent in Orlando to celebrate his award and revisit the many student exhibits as well as the endangered living animals that were often invited to the exhibits. Also present was Anders Brent, the artist’s son, who took part in the exhibition 22 years ago.
“Paul Brent has been an invaluable service to the students in our schools in organizing this exhibit over the years,” said Jessica Hughson, art teacher in Bay County. “The arts are so important in so many ways. By creating art, we improve their ability to learn. By recognizing the skills of our talented students with the awards, we build confidence and pride in our students. “
Tony Simmons is an author, teacher and editor. His column Undercurrents appeared for many years in the Entertainer. You can reach him at [email protected]