Featured in The Artist's
From the time she was young, Danice Sweet remembers being creative and being encouraged by her parents to use her imagination. So it’s no surprise that at age 8, she won her first art contest. She entered a Halloween scene in a contest sponsored by the Emporia Gazette. It appeared on the front page of the newspaper, and first prize was $10.
The 1984 Cowley graduate has made many artistic statements since her days in Emporia. In October, she was featured in The Artist’s Magazine, whose mission it is “to teach beginning, intermediate and advanced artists how to paint and draw better, and how to sell their work professionally.” Sweet, the former Danice Clover, is in her 14th year serving Unified School District No. 470, Arkansas City, as elementary art teacher. She also has a love for music, and has been a member of the group “Revival” for 13 years.
The Ark City native, who lived a short time in Emporia when her father was a meat inspector there, graduated from Arkansas City High School in 1982. She intended to go to Oklahoma Christian University on an art scholarship. But she was offered a music scholarship to Cowley and decided to stay home. Sweet was a member of the CowleyCo Singers, under the direction of Kenneth Judd, and she took art classes from Doug Hunter.
Sweet said her two years at Cowley were meaningful. “Cowley was an incredible place for me to grow,” she said. “I have a contralto voice (the lowest female voice), which never fit in high school. At Cowley, I felt I belonged and was given a chance to shine.”
Cowley also is where she met her husband, Chet Sweet. “One assignment in Doug Hunter’s class was to go out and draw something on campus,” Sweet recalls. “I went to the student center and began drawing this incredibly handsome student. He asked me why I was looking at him, so I told him. He ended up being my husband.” Chet, also a Cowley alumnus, was named outstanding drama and music student in 1983. Sweet always has been a talented artist. “I could always draw what I saw,” she said. “It was kind of a gift.”
But it wasn’t until the late 1990s when she began oil painting. “My mother gave me art lessons with (current Cowley art instructor) Mark Flickinger as a Christmas gift,” Sweet said. “I worked with Mark for two years. He offered painting classes at Jean Stockton’s studio. It was a great atmosphere for painting.” Prior to working with Flickinger, Sweet painted with watercolors. She had a watercolor painting in the state capital in Topeka as part of a legislative arts program, and she earned an honorable mention award at a national watercolor show. But, she said she wanted to “paint more realistically.” “Watercolor is a challenging medium, but you can’t express yourself with the depth that you can with oils,” Sweet said.
After Cowley, Sweet went on to OCU and earned a bachelor’s degree in education. She and Chet then married, and she taught art at a private high school in Oklahoma City for a year. Sweet then was asked to tour professionally with a Christian group called “A Cappella,” and she and Chet relocated to Tennessee and traveled the nation. They moved back to Arkansas City in 1988. Sweet is happy with her career. “It allows me to sing and paint and, hopefully, instill the love of both in kids,” she said. As a long-time member of “Revival,” Sweet has the opportunity to sing with some old friends. Her husband works the soundboard for the group. Donja (Hayes) Cary, another Cowley alumnus, also is a member of the group. “We all sang together in CowleyCos,” Danice Sweet said. The group recently recorded its 10th album titled “If That Isn’t Love.” Other members of the group are Craig Hayes and Terry Lewis.
Sweet earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from WSU in 2000, and someday hopes to teach at the collegiate level. Sweet said she learned the importance of art and its role in life at a very young age. “Creativity can be taught,” she said. “My parents are proof of that. They’re both creative people. My mother would hold up an object and ask what it could be. She also gave us the opportunity to let us find what we were good at. “Being able to recreate some of God’s beautiful handiwork on paper or canvas is an incredible joy. And teaching kids to do the same thing and give them a way to express themselves artistically is extremely rewarding.”
Sweet has illustrated three unpublished children’s books, and taught art in the Ukraine when she traveled there with a group on a medical mission in 1998. In her spare time, Sweet enjoys Scrabble. “I love to teach, paint, sing, and draw, and I’m able to do those things on a regular basis,” she said. “It’s one of life’s greatest gifts.”