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Bright Future: Students get into spirit at Grand Village contest

NATCHEZ — Deciding what animal best represents Ashton Hughes’ spirit was an easy decision for the seventh-grade Morgantown Middle School student.

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Students from Morgantown Middle School created mask that were put on display at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Students from Morgantown Middle School created mask that were put on display at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.

Hughes picked an animal she thinks is known for its bravery and is respected throughout the animal kingdom as a leader.

“I picked a wolf, because it’s my favorite animal,” she said. “Wolves have always seemed like very brave animals to me and are kind of like kings in the wild.”

Hughes was asked to chose her spirit animal in order to create a Native American mask for her art class.

Hughes, along with nearly 60 other students in Anne Bailey’s art class, created the masks to be displayed as part of a contest at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.

The students were given three spirit options to pick from to make their masks: animal, nature or warrior.

Each student began with a basic sketch and then proceeded to use various items, such as feathers, cotton balls and others, to bring their drawing to life.

Hughes used blue and gray feathers to decorate her drawing and give it a three-dimensional feeling.

“Trying to get the feathers to stick on there was the hardest part,” Hughes said. “The rest was easy.”

Seventh grader Davaion Claiborne chose the warrior spirit for his mask project and even got some inspiration from his favorite professional football team.

“I made mine look like the Washington Redskins as much as possible,” Claiborne said. “He had red eyes, yellow strips and some other things to make it look real.”

Claiborne said he learned a lot of new information about Native American history during the month-long project.

“We learned that masks were really important in Native American culture and traditions,” Claiborne said. “They would pass them down from generation to generation, and they were very sacred items.”

Jacob Reese also chose the warrior spirit for his project and said he found it interesting how the masks were used during conflicts.

“We learned they would put them on before they went to fight,” Reese said. “I tried to make mine look intimidating like if I were going to wear it for that.”

Reese started by painting his mask all black, then added streaks of red, yellow, blue and green to add another dimension of color.

Going from a two-dimensional sketch to a three-dimensional project was often the most difficult part for the students, Bailey said.

“That can be a little frustrating for them at times, but once they stuck with it and saw the final product, I think they were all excited,” Bailey said. “The whole goal of the project is that we give them the supplies and everything they need, but they have to come up with the idea and see it through from beginning to end.”

Bailey said exposing the students to Native American history was also an important part of the art project.

“The tradition of storytelling was very important to the Native Americans, and I think the students were even more interested to here about the Natchez Indians in particular,” Bailey said. “Because those relate to their town and it’s not some far off distant thing, I think they were interested in finding out a lot more about them.”

All of the students’ masks are on display at the Grand Village, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Judges will award certificates to students whose masks place in first, second or third place for each category.