One Teacher Helps Bring Artistic Education Back to Jackson High

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

When Lance Barnett arrived at Jackson High School as principal last year, he immediately began hearing from students who wanted to learn about art.

He was told it had been at least a decade since Jackson, one of Jacksonville's oldest high schools, had offered art courses.

That's changed.

Barnett found some money in his budget and began interviewing prospective art teachers. When he met Wendy West, he knew immediately she was the right person to reintroduce arts education to Jackson.

Lately, West's young artists have begun to make their mark on the school.


They've started decorating the art classroom, a free-standing building that faces onto 28th Street about a half-block west of Main Street, with a mural.

Ultimately, the mural will consist of a series of designs, with a recurring tiger stripe motif (Jackson's athletic teams are known as the Tigers). At the center will be an artist's palette that appears to be exploding, West said.

Decorating that building will be just the beginning. In the months and years ahead, she wants to turn all of Jackson into one vast canvas for her young artists.

Barnett supports that concept. "I have some ideas," he said.

West, who declined to give her age ("my mother taught me that was something you never do"), moved to Jacksonville about eight years ago from Fort Pierce, where she taught art in a public high school.

Although she did some teaching at a private high school and at Jacksonville University in recent years, West's emphasis was on her own art. A glass artist, she designed and made custom tiles, windows and plates. …