The Dart: School program evolves from church doodles
NATCHEZ — For Andree Gamberi, what started off as doodling pictures to pass the time became a deep passion for art.
Each painting on Gamberi’s walls tell a story, and when The Dart landed on North Temple Road Thursday, she explained it started when she was a young girl attending First Baptist Church in Natchez.
“My parents used to give me pencils, and I would draw my cousin next to me,” Gamberi said. “I would sit there and draw on the back of the program, and it kept me quiet.”
Drawing during church evolved into drawing in her free time, and from there a love for art grew to the point where Gamberi’s walls were filled with her own artwork.
Gamberi said she loves to draw buildings, landscapes and lighthouses, and now she has to find space to fit more paintings and drawings than she can count.
“I have painted the lighthouse (at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia) many times,” Gamberi said. “I’ve been there and taken a lot of pictures.”
Despite growing up in a family of educators, Gamberi said she never thought she would be a teacher one day. After returning to Mississippi State University for her master’s degree in art education, Gamberi received an offer from then Cathedral High School principal Jules Michelle.
“I was a substitute teacher at Cathedral for two years, then (Michelle) asked me three days before school started (in 1998) to start an art program,” she said. “They hadn’t had one in many years.”
Gamberi said she had no idea how to begin an art program from scratch.
“So I had to call people and ask, ‘Where do you get the supplies?’” she said. “I talked with teachers at Natchez High School, and I had to work out all of that in a short period of time.”
In 15 years, Gamberi has evolved her beginner’s art class into a program, which produces award-winning students.
Since 1998, Cathedral has had someone win first place in the Junior Duck Stamp Mississippi Best of Show program for 13 consecutive years.
The program is the culmination of the Junior Duck Stamp educational program. After studying waterfowl anatomy and habitat, students may articulate their newfound knowledge by drawing, painting or sketching a picture of an eligible North American waterfowl species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
Students from around the United States submit drawings to their state or district competition. Winners from these competitions, called the “best of show,” are then submitted to the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest, according to the website.
Gamberi said her students work five weeks on the project, which makes up a large part of their grade.
This year’s Mississippi Best of Show winner was Cathedral junior Kayla Cauthen, who said she wasn’t expecting to win.
“I just thought of it as a school project, but I knew it would be sent in for the contest,” Cauthen said.
“I found one I liked and tried to draw it to the best of my ability. I thought my duck looked good, but I didn’t think it was going to win. ”
Cauthen kept Gamberi’s teachings in the back of her mind while drawing her Pintail duck.
“She told us to make it look as much like the real thing, and if it looks wrong, don’t keep going, it’s OK to start over and do something different,” Cauthen said.
Gamberi said though only some students can place in the contest, there are several drawings she believes are worthy of recognition, and she encourages her students to do their best every day.