Wesleyan high school students take art to the next level by submitting “eye catching” pieces to art contests. Fine Arts are highly celebrated at Wesleyan, as all students are provided with a variety of visual art elective courses. According to the department, Wesleyan School’s goal for Fine Arts is to “maintain a structured system combined with a set curriculum to prepare the stage for creative talent to flourish. Each student is mentored and shown the importance of patience, dedication and a strong work ethic.”
Art students are given the opportunity to enter their artwork in contests introduced by their teachers. There are a number of Wesleyan artists that place impressively high for their contest submissions. There are different contests students can enter throughout the year, depending on what class they are taking. Typically, teachers announce contests to students in advanced level classes like Digital Photography II, Advanced 2D, Advanced 3D and AP Art. All-State Art Symposium, Shutter Sense, National Honors Juried Exhibition and Atlanta High School Art Exhibit are contests offered for entry every year. After the contest results are announced, these exhibitions commonly showcase the artist’s work.
Assistant Director of Fine Arts Meagan Brooker explains the difference in All-State Art Symposium contest versus the Scholastic contest. In regard to All-State, Brooker said, “The first round of All-State is district, which for us includes all of Gwinnett County. Then, those finalists move on to State. This year, almost 2,000 entries went to state and they selected 133 for the final state judging round. Those 6 percent of students selected are invited to exhibit their work at the All-State Art Symposium and attend workshops. It’s a huge honor to make it that far!” She then goes on to describe Scholastic. She said, “The first round is statewide. SCAD hosts it every year and their professors judge it at the state level for Gold Key, Silver Key and Honorable Mentions. Gold Keys move onto Nationals and will be judged the same way. It is very competitive but looks great on college resumes!”
Each student prepares their artwork they enter for these contests differently. Senior AP Art student Liza Yates explains the variety of materials she used for creating her piece. Yates said, “I used wood board, paint, pictures, white pen, glue, a laser cutter, acrylic board, string and paper.” Senior Charlie Neu also takes AP Art and he said, “I try to get my pieces that I have partially finished towards completion. I make sure to scan them so I can have a copy on my computer. Then, I submit.”
Sophomore Kayla Kim takes Wesleyan’s drawing course and explains her preparation for entering in future contests. Kim said, “During the first month I try to gather as many ideas as possible. Next, I eliminate it down to two or three. I draw and create my piece for the next couple of months.” Kim has been awarded two Gold Keys, Gold Medal, Best in Grade, Silver Key, Silver Medal for Scholastic contest, Finalist for Reflections contest and Finalist in the National Honors Juried Exhibition and Department of Education Exhibition in Washington. Kim expresses her talents through her artwork. For example, her piece “Captivation” took around three months to create. When asked what the message or concept behind her piece exhibits, she said, “I wanted to capture the irony in our lives of how we have no “cage” that restricts us, yet we look only in the small confines that we build around ourselves. However, those who have literal boundaries, which define their entire world, look beyond their confines into the limitless world.”
Neu placed State Finalist in All-State Art Symposium last year for his piece titled “Symbiosis.” This year, he was awarded State Finalist for two of his pieces: “Transcendence” and “Green Windows.” For his Scholastic entry, he won three Gold Keys and three Silver Keys.
The role of student versus teacher for contest preparation differs. Art Teacher and Fine Arts Administrative Assistant Whitney Panetta looks for several qualities when deciding which art pieces should be sent out, she said, “We look for creativity, craftsmanship, strong competition, concepts and techniques.” When asked how the process of picking a winner for contest entries work, she said, “We give the opportunity for students to submit work in advanced level classes. Then, Michael Tablada, Meagan Brooker and I give each work of art a rating, similar to an AP score. We compare ratings, discuss each work of art and make our final selection of 20 works of art to submit to All-State Art Symposium. With contests that have unlimited submissions, like Scholastic, we work one on one with students to make their selections.”
Wesleyan students excel when it comes to Fine Arts and their preparation for contests. When looking at students’ artwork and the awards they receive, it is evident that their hard work and dedication truly pays off. When asked what the most rewarding part is of their artwork, Yates said, “When my art gets recognized, I feel a sense of accomplishment after finishing a piece.”