Get to know three Laurinburg artists

By Kerria Weaver

How would you define art? Can it really be defined?

The Border Belt Independent spoke with three artists from Laurinburg who show that there is an art to everything we do and how you can make a career out of it in the process.

Keith Stephens, 42, is an art teacher at Scotland High School. Stephens has always been interested in art, fascinated with the idea of creating something out of nothing.

Keith Stephens is an art teacher at Scotland High School.

“It always interested me to see how paper can become a canvas or a canvas can become a work of art,” Stephens said. “Ever since I can remember, before I could even walk, if you ask my mom, she would say I’ve always had a pencil or marker or something in my hand.”

Stephens works with many forms of art such as pencil, charcoal and oil. He also creates sculptures. His most recent artwork deals with digital media.

“I’m just now getting into digital art, too, because I published a comic book, a self-published comic book called The Significant Six about a year ago, so I kind of introduced myself to digital art.”

Stephens gets inspiration for his art through family and his surroundings. He sits back and pays attention to what’s going on around him, whether it’s at home or in the classroom with his students.

“I just want to make sure I get every aspect and emotion of everyday life,” he said. 

Sommore Terry, 27, is a fifth-grade math teacher in Laurinburg while also the studio owner of Creative Expressions Dance Academy. Terry has always had a passion for dance and knew from a young age dancing was going to be a career for her.

Sommore Terry has her own dance studio , but considers herself a mentor as well.

“I actually started dancing at 2. My mom put me in dance, and ever since, I’ve danced,” Terry said. “I have a dance minor from UNC Greensboro. I majored in biology in college, and I did a dance minor just to make sure I still kept up with dance.”

After graduating college, Terry couldn’t find a job and had to come home, where she substituted at Scotland High School. She knew this was not her end product. After teaching for two years, she became a dance teacher and started her own studio.

Creative Expressions Dance Academy offers ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop. This summer, Terry will add Zumba for adults.

The academy currently has 50 students. Terry sees herself as not only as a dance teacher, but also a mentor.

“I’ve learned that dance is all about discipline. I’m a dance teacher, but I’m also a mentor for my dancers,” Terry said. “I’m checking on them at school, I’m checking on them at home. I’m all up in their business because I tell them all the time, not only are you representing yourself, but you’re representing me and your family everywhere you go.” 

Gwen Rainer, 73, is a retired educator who taught at Scotland High School for 19 years but has been in education for 41 years.

Gwen Rainer with her grandson, Bruce Allen Freeman, Jr.

Even though Rainer describes herself as an educator, one of her hobbies is storytelling. Rainer participated in local storytelling festivals as a hobby, performing alongside her friend and fellow storyteller Tyris Jones, and other professionals in the art.

“I’ve always wanted to be an English teacher. In high school my English teacher was also my homeroom teacher, Miss Blaylock, and she would read poems to us,” Rainer said. “She would read the poems with such bravado.  I started to learn those poems because of her and that’s when I wanted to be an English teacher.”

“When Tyris and I performed, we would have professionals coming up to us saying, ‘I can’t believe you’ve never been to the National Storytelling Festival,’ and the only way to get invited was by a professional who was an author,” Rainer said.

She got her chance.

The National Storytelling Festival is held in Jonesborough, Tenn., in October, inviting storytellers from around the world to perform and present their art.

“We had to send them a tape and do all these things because they only invite six storytellers a year from all over the world and I got invited. That’s when I really saw how big it was,” Rainer said.

One of Rainer’s favorite poets is Paul Laurence Dunbar. She recited his poems to her younger sister growing up and taught them in English classes, which got her started in storytelling.

She is also inspired by her father, who also recited poems, some from Dunbar, and was well known for going through the 66 books of the Bible.

Rainer also explained how there is an art to being an educator and how important teaching is.

“Our focus couldn’t just stay on education, we had to look at everything – at the big picture – and we had to fight some battles when going into the classroom as a teacher. “This comes with every job, but the positives of teaching were so much greater,” she said.