More than 15 students from the West Ashley High School Art Club, Wildcat International Club, and a number of others who have an interest in the arts stayed afterschool for two and a half weeks for up to three hours a day to design and paint a giant greeting card for the James Island County Park Festival of the Lights Giant Greeting Card Competition.

This year’s theme was “Let Your Heart Be Light,” a line derived from the famous Christmas song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. While this is the third year in a row that West Ashley High has participated in the board painting competition, this is the first year that they placed; earning an honorable mention.

After a number of planning meetings, the group decided to give their board a winter look with snowmen and a snowflake background. To help further tie it to this year’s theme, the group designed the snowmen to look like carolers and included found items at the top of the card.

Found items are things that are not conventionally used in art, like picture frames, used books, and sheet music; all of which they incorporated into this project. Students, like sophomore Kimberly McCurdy, used their specialty skills and talents to help with specific aspects of the project. McCurdy painted “Let Your Heart Be Light” in calligraphy at the top of the greeting card.

“My favorite part about painting this Giant Greeting Card is watching the collaboration of the students,” said Wildcat International Club sponsor and Spanish teacher Mollie Soto. “Collaboration of teachers between departments is very important to building our inter-disciplinary studies at West Ashley High School. Students are able to watch the project’s day-to-day progress and feel a sense of pride once it is complete.”

Art teacher Shannon Hopkins felt the project went well too. “I loved sharing the artistic process with the group. In the real world this is how projects are done,” said Hopkins. “One person alone couldn’t have achieved such an outcome. I’m so proud of our project.”

Receiving honorable mention this year was the first award that West Ashley High has won as part of the James Island County Park Festival of the Lights Board Painting. Hopkins is proud of the students, not just for their accomplishment, but also for their dedication. “It is not measured in accolades but how it was perceived by others,” said Hopkins.

This year there were 38 entries from Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties. The competition was broken down into four different brackets: an elementary school, middle school, high school division, and honorable mention. The top three schools is each division as well as those who received honorable mention were given a trophy, certificate, and cash prize.

The top three winners in each division were as follows: in the elementary school division – 1st place: Charleston Collegiate, 2nd place – Orange Grove Charter, and 3rd place – Malcolm C. Hursey; in the middle school division – 1st place: Charleston Christian, 2nd place – Camp Road, and 3rd place – Ridge Christian Academy; and in the high school division: 1st place – Cathedral Academy, 2nd place – Crown Leadership Academy, and 3rd place – St. Johns. Along with West Ashley High, Dustin Primary, GLOW Home School, and St. James-Santee Elementary all received honorable mention.

“I believe that the Giant Greeting Card project went very well and turned out so much better than I could have predicted,” said Soto. “I am very proud of our students, especially those who took on leadership roles over the course of the two and a half weeks; our leaders were Maryann Royster and Caitlyn Still.”

The giant greeting cards will be on display in Santa’s Village as part of the annual Holiday Festival of Lights, now in its 28th season, until Jan. 1.


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