26th Annual County First Bank Art Show.

26th Annual County First Bank Art Show, “The World Around Us” at Mary B. Neal Elementary School


La Plata, MD – Charles County elementary school students and their families gathered Thursday night, Nov. 17 to view student’s artwork at the 26th Annual County First Bank Art Show.

There were hundreds of students and parents at Mary B. Neal Elementary School enjoying refreshments and looking through the variety of art from the different schools, which was themed “The World Around Us.”

Art work was submitted by art teachers for 156 students from 26 schools throughout the county, said Patti Murphy, County First Bank vice president.  

County First Bank was established as a local community bank in 1990, with its headquarters located in La Plata. 

“This is our 26th year that we’ve sponsored the event,” said Douglas Mitchell, County First Bank president. “It started out with the first president of County First Bank, George B. Morris, and he was very passionate about art. Unfortunately he passed away fairly early on at the start of the bank. Earl Gieseman, [former president,] decided he was going to continue on with the program. Earl retired back in 2013, and I joined the bank and made the decision that we would continue to do it.”

All of the artwork is displayed in the branches of County First. The bank has a committee coordinated by employee Karen Zamostny, which establishes the theme of the art show each year, as well as a separate committee of employees who judge the art. “They take all the artwork and spread it out on the floor in the bank and go through the schools and choose the winners for each one of them,” Mitchell said.

“It’s a thrill to have the kids participate in the program,” Mitchell said. “The artwork they do is absolutely fantastic; the bank employees absolutely love bringing in all the artwork, looking through it, and putting together the program. The most fun part about it is when we come here this evening and see hundreds of people here with their kids enjoying looking at the artwork, and hopefully a few budding artists will come out of it.”

After the art show, using artwork from all the schools, the bank will choose a grand prize winner, who will be invited to the shareholders meeting with their family. “We take their artwork and get it printed into our annual report,” which is sent out to all of the bank’s shareholders, said Mitchell. 

Timothy Bodamer, Content Specialist for the Fine and Performing Arts for Charles County Board of Education said it was his sixteenth year attending the art show.
“It’s nice to have [County First Bank] take an interest in the kids and sponsor this because they actually have cash prizes for the schools, which the teachers really appreciate because it gives them a bigger budget to help them buy supplies,” Bodamer said.

He said “It is nice to get all the families together, so they can see not only their own child’s work but also other children in the community’s artwork as well. It is nice for the kids to see other student’s artwork, instead of just the kids that are in their class and school.

Bodamer said it’s always interesting to see the artwork because each school takes a different path with the theme. 

“[The bank] does a wonderful job with this” Bodamer said every year they get a great turnout, “parking is really the only negative” about the art show.

Some of the top winners were, Samantha Jensen of Mary B. Neal Elementary, for best of show, Sophia Reyes of St. Peter’s Church School, for most traditional, Jonathan Kale of Malcolm Elementary, for most creative, Nevaeh Phelps of Jenifer Elementary, for most original, and Andrea Smith of Mary B. Neal Elementary, for most contemporary.

Jennifer Jenkins’ students at Walter J. Mitchell won the grand price for their nature pieces at this years art show. “I focused [the student’s art work] towards Maryland since that’s what’s around them and what they see everyday,” She said. “We took a part of Maryland in miniature and illustrated that.”

Jenkins said they were learning about Maryland in class, so she decided to allow students to choose one of the different Maryland scenes including Baltimore, Assateague Island, farmlands, and the Potomac River. 

This was Jenkins ninth year participating in the event.

Kaelin Cavanaugh, a third grader at Dr. James Craik, said her art teacher had each student in the class paint an animal for this year’s theme. Cavanaugh chose to paint a koala bear, which won her the first place prize for her school. She was very excited when she found out she won first place.

Jill Rison, an art teacher at St. Mary’s School, said she directed her students toward nature for their art. “We talked about God’s gifts and started with flowers and water and then the Earth and sun,” Rison said. “For the second one, we used acrylic paint and started with the sun and then talking about nature.”

“We were only allowed to pick three third graders and three fourth graders, so I laid them all out and had some people help me decide based on the quality of the work,” Risen said. “It’s definitely a challenge because they are all so talented.”

Doug and Kami Cooley, parents of a fourth grader at Mt. Hope Nanjemoy, said this year was their first year attending the art show. “It’s bringing the community together in a constructive way,” Doug said. “[Erin] enjoyed making [the art] and she likes that other people can see her work,” Kami said.

Kamiah Johnson, a fourth grader at Arthur H. Middleton, won second place for her rainbow scene. Said she came up with the idea by listening to her art teacher and “imagining her own pictures being an artist.” Johnson said she aspires to be an artist when she grows up.

Michael Lukas, Vice Chairman of Charles County Board of Education, said he has attended the event for the past “six or seven years.” 

“I like watching what the kids do,” Lukas said. “I like that [County First] takes the time to recognize every kid. They’ll call schools out and they come up with their art teacher. It’s special; they put a lot of time into doing the art work and they get recognized for it.”

Franklin Avila, a fourth grader at J. P. Ryon, said he had fun creating a landscape for the event and was happy when he found out he won first place for his school.

Lilly Goldsmith, a fourth grader at Grace Christian Academy, also won first place for her chameleon piece. She said she came up with the idea from “always seeing geckos on my grandmother’s porch.” Grace Christian Academy won the show prize of the art show. Goldsmith said when she saw her art won first place, “I was really happy and I thanked the Lord that I did it.”