I think I have many talents. As much as I would like to say that artistic abilities are at the top of the list, I would be telling a tall tale. The only thing I can do with a pencil is write, and my only connection to a paintbrush is the one time, several years ago, when I attempted to paint my bedroom. Picasso, I am not.

I envy those with a talented eye – those who can see beauty and dimension in the simplest things like flowers, the ocean or a child playing in the sand. I envy people who can make textures come to life – those with the ability to take something so minute and create greatness. Those who can convey a message through fine strokes of color or capture the essence of life through the lens of a camera. That’s true art in my opinion. That’s what I saw at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center during the opening reception of the 18th annual National Arts Program.

What is the National Arts Program?

18th Annual Exhibit of the National Arts Program

18th Annual Exhibit of the National Arts Program.

The National Arts Program was established in 1982 by the National Arts Program Foundation to identify, showcase and reward the visual artistic talent in America. The foundation sponsors the program in collaboration with the Arts & Science Council, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. The event provides an opportunity for city and county employees and their families to submit their original art for display.

This year, more than 200 pieces ranging from paintings to photography and sculptures were submitted. The artwork was placed in categories ranging from youth to professional. First, second and third place awards were given in each category. Several People’s Choice awards were also distributed.

Award winners from the 18th Annual National Arts Program

Award winners from the 18th Annual National Arts Program.

Dozens filled the Government Center vying to get a peek of the images on display. Some of the pieces moved you, while others like “Courage to Roar” inspired. One piece merely titled “Kate” embodied the same playful spirit found in its name. But it’s unfair to highlight a few pieces because all the artwork is worth seeing. It’s an injustice to just write about the artwork, you will need to visit the exhibit and spend moments allowing the artist’s intended message concealed within the fine lines of their work to resonate with your soul.

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to see the featured pieces. The art will remain on display until February 28th. The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Government Center located at 600 East 4th Street. So, take a few minutes to go and see it for yourself. Maybe it will challenge you to find your own inner Picasso or at least encourage someone you know to unleash the artist that lives within. Remember, the NAP committee will need a new round of artists to feature next year!

For more information about the National Arts Program, including a list of winners and photos of the winning entries, visit www.charlottenc.gov/NAP.