Davies Middle School sixth-grader Kazminah Turner is not a famous artist, but at the opening of the Annual Davies Student Art Exhibit at the Mays Landing Library on March 7, she got to feel like one.

Turner and dozens of other students whose work is on display at the library this month played host at the event, explaining their pieces as they guided friends and family through the show.

The opening of the exhibit, which included refreshments, was designed to give the students a chance to feel what it's like to debut a show as a professional artist, Davies art teacher Sherry Mirakian-Mourning said.

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"Mostly it's for the kids, for them to have the opportunity to see what it's like," Mirakian-Mourning said. "Most artists have openings, usually on a Friday evening, and they'll have music and food, so we were telling the students about that."

The exhibit is a showcase of works students have put together in class this year with Mirakian-Mourning and Kathleen Marandino, who also teaches art at Davies.

Kazminah, who is in Marandino's class, has two works in the exhibit, both of them paintings. One depicts the Egyptian goddess Isis, and another depicts an elephant in a safari scene. Kazminah, who said art is one of her favorite hobbies, said she hopes she can look back on the opening one day as the start of a great art career.

"It means I can probably be famous one day, and just sell my art and then be famous for it," Kazminah said. "When people look back at it they'll say, 'Wow, Kazminah's a great artist. I wish I can be like her.'"

This year marks a change in formula for the program, which 27-year vet Mirakian-Mourning said has been held at the library since as far back as she can remember.

At the beginning of this school year, Davies art program was split into two tracks: a graphic art track taught by Marandino, and a traditional art track by Mirakian-Mourning.

Mirakian-Mourning's track covers traditional fine art, like portraits, pottery and basic metalwork. Marandino's offers a taste of more modern styles, such as Andy Warhol-style pop art and computer programs such as Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator. The combination of the two, Mirakian-Mourning said, meant more variety at the show than ever before.

In addition to allowing the teachers to cover more ground than they would in a unified curriculum, the new program also affords students the flexibility to tailor their studies to suit their interests.

"Because we're kind of split, the kids were able to pick what they were most interested in, and they were able to spend more time in those areas and learn a little more," Marandino said.

LaVerne Scott, Kazminah's grandmother, accompanied her to the March 7 opening. Kazminah was always into art growing up, she said, making it no surprise she would excel as an artist.

And while she'll always have an eye for her granddaughter's work, Scott said she was impressed by the quality of all the art on display.

"I think it's beautiful," Scott said. "Very talented young artists here."

The student works will be up at the library through the end of March. Many of the pieces also can be seen on the student art site artsonia.com.

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