Though she hasn’t settled on a career path yet, Aja said she loves to be surrounded by artistic people because they inspire her.
She is one of three area teens who recently received “Best of Show” honors and were named American Vision nominees through the Scholastic Art Awards.
The three winners will have their work displayed in New York City in March along with 47 other central Illinois Gold Key recipients. The national exhibition will have 300 pieces of art.
The “Best of Show” winners were selected from the 50 Gold Key recipients. Through the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, one of the five “Best of Show” winners will have her work automatically entered into a national show, which is held at Carnegie Hall. The other Gold Key winners may also have their work selected.
Currently, the winning art is being displayed at the Springfield Art Association, 700 N Fourth St.
In addition to the awards, the Gold Key winners will take classes from professional artists on Friday at an Honors Day.
Teachers can select additional students to attend these sessions. The artists teach about a range of art forms and types, including painting landscapes, watercolor work and beads. Students select two workshops and create art to compete for art supplies.
For Aja’s winning piece, “Awe,” she drew a picture of herself based on a photograph she’d taken.
Art is an outlet of both expression and emotion, she said.Last year, Aja won another Gold Key in the scholastic competition.
“It is always a wonderful payoff to see (students) and their work receive honors and acknowledgement. I am very proud of the effort that is put forth and appreciate when it is noticed and honored,” said Dave Shaw, Aja’s art teacher at Rochester.
Shaw described Aja’s artistic spirit as “energetic and uplifting.”
“She is not afraid of being creative, and loves to inspire and be inspired by others, in life and art,” he said.
‘A true reflection of our culture’
Events like the scholastic awards and Honors Day are important for the growth of society, Shaw said. Four of his other students also received Gold Key awards.
“The arts are a true reflection of our culture,” he said. “Students need the creative outlet and exercises that the arts provide. Whenever there is an opportunity for the expansion and notable appreciation of the arts, it is a good and valuable opportunity for students to absorb and grow.”
Glenwood High School junior Guannan Liu won two Best in Show awards for digital art pieces. Though she doesn’t plan to study art after high school, she said the workshop will be valuable.
“I think working with any experienced person in any field can be very illuminating,” she said.
Guannan’s pieces are titled “Thousand Faces” and “Bird Man.” She said both birds and Medieval plague doctors inspired her.
“I’m pretty excited for national judging,” she said.
Last year, Guannan won another “Best of Show” award. In addition, she’s received other Gold Keys. She first took home the award during her eighth-grade year. She is taught by Nikki Brawner, a Glenwood art teacher. “I’d be less content without (art),” Guannan said. “It gives me something to feel nice about.”
Eighth-grader Sam Thiele started drawing just one year ago. Her great-grandpa and grandma drew together so she joined them. Sam was surprised when she won a Best in Show for her piece, “Self Portrait.”
“I thought everybody drew like that,” the Blessed Sacrament School student said. “I didn’t think I would make it there, so I was very surprised.”
Sam won two additional Gold Key awards, one for a drawing and one for a mixed media piece. She is looking forward to meeting other artists and to having her art on display. She takes private lessons with Cindy Huffman, a Springfield High School art teacher. Drawing connects her to God, Sam said. She hopes that people can learn about God through her drawings.
“Each of my pieces has something to do with God,” Sam explained.