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Nelson County High students display AI-generated art works through December

Rebecca Barnabi
Nelson County High School’s Jaidyn Smith is among students’ art on display through December 2023. Courtesy of Terry Ward.

Before Microsoft Designer was released to the public, Nelson County High School art teacher Terry Ward was provided access for beta testing last year.

In late March 2023, Ward allowed a few of his students to make their historical creations as the first AI-generated art by students. They typed words which the artificial intelligence then used as a prompt for making images.

“It’s next-decade technology,” Ward said.

Some of the pictures are now on public exhibit at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nelson County through December 2023 in an exhibit titled “Strangely Human: Student-Directed, A.I.-Generated Art.”

The 25 large paper printouts include intriguing images like “Collapsing Star in Human Form,” “Realistic Photo of A Glass Frog Sculpture Floating on a Lily Pad in a Garden Pond” and “Cartoon Boulder In The Style of Anime Animation Crying.”

Students allowed their imaginations to wander on their computer keyboards and then had the AI app render the requested images.

“AI-generated text and school papers have been getting a lot of bad press lately — as they should when a student uses a machine to write a document and then takes credit for the work,” Ward said. “I see AI-generated art differently though: one uses one’s creativity to imagine possible scenes, then one types words to start the AI making your picture.”

Ward said that each picture began with a student’s idea, and the AI did the painting/drawing/photography/sculpting for the user.

“It is a creative act — while also opening up worlds for those lacking hand-skill.”

According to Ward, the U.S. Copyright Office declared that AI-generated art has no copyright.

“They’re not Microsoft’s,” Ward said, “they’re free for us to play with and even publish.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.