Dutchtown Middle School art teacher Charles Guillory sets out every day to teach his sixth-, seventh- and eight-graders how to not only draw, paint and sculpt, but to think, as well.

Guillory, in his first year as an art teacher at the school, wants his students to look at things differently and know that “what they see is not always what they think they see.”

Art, to Guillory, is a discipline that teaches problem-solving, self-control and focus.

“They’re exploring another part of their thinking they never explored before,” he said.

Discovery is key in Guillory’s class.

Those discoveries are on display through May 8 at the Ascension Parish Library’s Dutchtown branch, down the street from the middle school.

The artwork exhibits the elements and principles of design studied in his class, he said, and he hopes residents will stop by the library to see the talent expressed in his students’ work.

Included in the display is a painting of a brown pelican by seventh-grader Nathan Cagle, 13.

Cagle selected the brown pelican because it’s a “symbol of our state and I like it.”

He likes art class because it has helped him focus and learn patience.

“I’m able to place my energy in more positive things thanks to art class,” he said.

For Cagle, art class is a place for creativity.

Guillory smiled when he heard Cagle’s comments about his class.

“It is more about just learning how to draw, after all,” Guillory said.

Art is an enrichment program offered to students. Not all students elect to take the class, he said.

Samples of student work are on display in the halls of the middle school and all around the classroom.

Students have learned how to make masks using papier-mâché, craft self-portraits and sculpt using a variety of materials.

Guillory, whose father had a background in fine arts, grew up drawing and taught art in Baker schools for five years.

He said he enjoys the challenges middle school children bring to his class. Some think they have no talent and discover a hidden ability, while others think drawing is easy and realize they have more to learn.

He described a middle school art program as “the grammar school of art” classes. His goal is to introduce different types of mediums to his students and “make it relevant.”

He said the exhibition at the library reflects his students’ youth culture and interests.

Hopefully, he said, those stopping by will like what they see.