Editor’s note: Every year leading to commencement, the Jasper County Tribune profiles two Colfax-Mingo and two Baxter students. In part 2 of a two part series, JCT interviewed students from Baxter.
BAXTER – Similar to the majority of school districts in the Midwest, the sport athletic programs reign supreme at Baxter Community School.
From in-depth articles featuring the athletes in the local newspaper to community members painting their faces in CMB Raiders black and silver, high school sports seem to be the main point of focus for the town of about 1,100 people.
Despite this emphasis in the community, two Baxter seniors fell in love with the fine arts, developed their craft and slowly made a name for themselves with this focus.
Baxter seniors Rebekah Pearson and Caleb Van Zante walked across the stage Sunday at Baxter Community School’s graduation commencement ceremony in the school’s west gym. The two were among the three students honored for participating four years in fine arts — Caleb for band and Rebekah for drill team.
“I lived in Baxter my whole life. I went to school here my whole life. I have been heavily involved in the arts with drama, band and middle school choir,” saxophonist Van Zante said. “I really developed a passion for music.”
Similarly to Van Zante, Pearson was raised in Baxter. She took a variety of art classes in school and soon discovered her love for clay. From working on a pottery wheel to learning a dance routine for the school’s drill team, Pearson has always enjoyed dipping into her creative side.
“When I was first introduced to clay in elementary, I just loved it,” she said. “The first piece I remember making, we were assigned to make some kind of food and make it as realistic as we could. Most people made a slice of pizza, I actually did a mug of hot chocolate that sort of spilled over. There were marshmallows floating.”
The two said it was a little difficult finding the support of their artistic talents from their peers, but thanks to their teachers, they were able to explore their craft and develop into a passion.
“My step-grandfather, Don (Bury), was a band director. When I was in fifth grade, I got to pick an instrument. He loved the sax, so he strongly suggested that I play it,” Van Zante said. “He taught me basically everything I know.”
Van Zante said his step-grandfather showed him how to express himself through music and share his true self with the people who have the privilege to hear him play.
“He told me put my soul into it and get into the music instead of playing notes on a page. I would just dive in and see where the composer comes from,” he said. “By playing a piece of music, people can see the heart and soul I put into it.”
For Pearson, she said through her passion for pottery, she was able to build a strong bond with her art teacher, Liz Gaffney.
“She sent me a lot of links to videos. I did a lot on my own and found my way, in finding out how to use the pottery wheel and different things like that. She is awesome,” she said. “When I am working with the wheel, it can be a very stressful because it just doesn’t do what you want a lot of the time. If you don’t get it centered on the wheel, everything is going to be off... Once you get it perfectly centered, it is a nice release and worth the work.”
Although the two said they are most comfortable playing the saxophone or molding clay, they both enjoyed trying out a variety of sports and other activities in high school.
Pearson participated in volleyball, basketball, cheerleading and track.
Van Zante was involved with the golf, football, the National Honor Society, student government and Baxter’s youth group.
“You go out on a Friday night and the stands are filled with a bunch of people. I enjoyed it. I played football,” Van Zante said. “I would definitely say there is much a bigger following in sports than the arts.”
From Van Zante’s trip to Europe to Pearson showing off her ceramic works at the senior art show, the two said they developed several lifelong relationships through art.
“When I went on that Europe trip, I was only one that went on it from Baxter. So I had no other choice but to make some friends from all throughout Iowa. I became really close with a couple guys on that trip,” Van Zante said. “One of the guys is going to (University of) Iowa next year and he is encouraging me to try out for the marching band.”
Although the two will always treasure the memories and friendships they made in the halls at Baxter Community School, they are excited to go to college and continue to develop their love for art.
“Music and art is a way to express yourself and your mind,” Pearson said. “If you have that extra class period, take that extra art class. I think you wouldn’t regret it at all.”
Van Zante will be attending the University of Iowa for pharmacy, while Pearson will pursue secondary education at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at email@example.com