Saturday, April 16, 2016

FAMU track star’s art piece showcased at Foster-Tanner Art Gallery

It is often very dangerous to stand in the vicinity of FAMU track and field star Jaymee Smith.  For the past four years, she has stepped on the tracked armed with a spear – a javelin, that is.  The good news is she knows how to throw it, and when she does the outcome is defeat for her opponents.

The senior from Kansas, by way of Jacksonville, Fla., has been a top performer in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) since her freshman year.

Off the field, Smith is finishing up her degree in fine arts and has a flare for creating “cool” pieces.  On April 14, a milestone was attained as one of her pieces had the honor of being displayed on the side of the Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Building, square in the center of FAMU’s campus. The 22’ x 11’ canvas titled “Own It,” is part of an homage assignment in a public arts course taught by Professor Aja Roache.

Roache accompanied members of the class to the unveiling and display of the piece.  “This class is called Public Arts Studies.  It’s an advanced art workshop class.  We go through the reasons for public art, how it affects the community, how it impacts different social practices, and how it’s actually created,” Roache said.

The assignment was to pay homage to a great artist by creating an homage piece.  Smith spent countless hours on the project and had to be very innovative in getting such a large piece done by hand.  “My inspiration for this piece came from Milton Glaser, who is a leading American artist and designer.  This is a tribute to him and all of his work and illustrations,” Smith said.

You may not know the name Milton Glaser, but you’ve seen his work.  He is the designer of the “I love New York” logo, as well as the “Hope” poster for now U.S. President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Working with such a large canvas made it difficult for Smith to find a workspace. She ended up asking Athletics Director Milton Overton for permission to use the back area of the Gaither Gym. Implementing a grid method, Smith then laid out the canvas in the back hallway of the gym.

“This was a no-brainer,” said Overton. “We intend to offer every resource we can to our student-athletes to succeed in the classroom.  Jaymee has been a model student for four years, winning championships along the way and we intend to do what we can to see her cross the most important finish line…the stage at commencement,” Overton said.

Smith, who finished third overall in the MEAC in 2014 in the javelin event, has been a solid performer for Head Coach Darlene Moore and the Lady Rattler track team.  “Since joining our team in 2012, Jaymee has been a person we can depend on.  She is a solid thrower, consistent with high academics and the perfect teammate.  As a coach, you understand an athlete’s athletic ability from their statistics.  What you don’t know is how well that athlete will mesh with the rest of the team.  I can truly say that Jaymee has been a good fit for our team,” Moore said.

Teammate Ashley Ivey, also a senior, was present for the ceremony and was amazed at what she saw.  “I’ve known Jaymee for four years and to see her accomplish something so dear to her heart, which is fine arts. . . . It’s a proud moment to see her light up looking at her piece hanging 22 feet tall. Oh my gosh, it’s just a great feeling as a friend and as a teammate,” Ivey said.

The piece is a combination of a silhouette and a color burst coming from the top. Smith carefully chose the colors to match the style of Glaser. Smith didn’t want to use colors that would remind people of something else, so she took great care in implementing a color combination that would be unique to the piece.  It echoed the subtler colors used by Glaser on several of his works.

A full course load and a scholarship to maintain in track is demanding upon student-athletes.  Still, Smith manages to fit it all in.   

“I make time.  That’s one of my biggest challenges right now, time management.  When I am at track practice, I am 100 percent into track.  When I am working on art, I have to immerse myself 100 percent into art.  If I ever lose focus, then I’m going to get behind and it’s just too difficult to make up for lost time when your schedule is as tight as mine,” Smith said.

Smith manages to impress on both ends.  Last season the Lady Rattlers captured the MEAC Outdoor Track & Field Championship.  The pressure is on for Smith and her teammates to perform on the track.  Moore has been pleased at Smith’s ability to maintain the school and athletics balance.  Her instructor, Roache, is just as impressed by her abilities.  “Jaymee did a really wonderful job of capturing Glaser’s aesthetic with the colors and the lines.  She entitled it, ‘Own It.’ It’s about women’s empowerment and owning your abilities. . . [owning] the great thing about yourself.”

With her patented smile, Smith talked about her emotions from the day’s activities.  “It is so exciting.  It’s so extravagant to have something that I love. And to actually pursue that dream as a major was a big challenge and a huge leap of faith to take.  To actually go with a major that I love makes me very happy.. . . . My teammates kind of know about my art, but I think it’s kind of hidden because I don’t show it at practice.  When I’m at practice, I’m working on my craft, which is the javelin.  In order to have any success, I realized I had to keep the two separate,” Smith concluded.

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