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Wow: The first-place winner for grades nine and 10 in an earlier contest was a beautiful 'Lady' by Shannon Debus.
Go jump in the lake: A previous Teen Art Show third place prize for grades nine and 10 went to 'Day at the Lake' by Emily Hendricks.
By COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Calling all budding (and blooming) young artists! The Central Rappahannock Regional Library (with the co-sponsorship of The Free Lance-Star's own it! magazine) will soon be hosting its 15th annual Teen Art Show, with an opening reception on Feb. 26.
"We first launched the show 15 years ago as a forum where teens could showcase their art," said youth services manager Becky Purdy, who originally proposed the idea for the exhibit.
"There is a lot of talent out there, and there weren't a lot of opportunities at that time for them to have a professional show."
High school students from Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Westmoreland counties are invited to enter their creations in any two-dimensional media.
With generous support from the Friends of the Library, first-, second- and third-place winners in two groups (grades 9-10 and 11-12) will receive cash awards of $100, $75 and $50, respectively.
In addition, the two first-place winners will have their own show at the library next December.
The juniors' and seniors' creations will be judged by local artist and "the ultimate encourager" Johnny Johnson, who has served in this capacity nearly every year since the Teen Art Show's inception.
The freshman and sophomore art will be judged by fellow artists in the older age group on the evening of the opening reception--with judging criteria including creativity, technical ability, composition and emotive impact.
"I think, overall, that there are some art students in this area that are just outstanding. I mean their work is unbelievable," said Johnson. "I've seen some people whose work looked like they would have been much older.
"I mean, how in the world did they get to be so technically proficient with a particular medium at the age of 16, 17 or 18?"
Johnson says he puts an emphasis on the artists' creativity.
"By creativity, I mean how they handle the medium, as well as the subject matter," he explained. "For example, I've seen works that, though technically done well, were simply a copy of a photograph [maybe of a movie star].
"I didn't see anything in it that said that the person looked at the photo and then began to interpret based on their knowledge of their subject's unique character, if they've ever seen him or her perform."
He recalls once, earlier on in the teen exhibits, when one piece of work struck him as undeniably the best in show. That young artist, Maria Duke, has gone on to pursue art as a college major and career and has shown in a number of local juried shows.
Many other local teen artists, likewise, may be on the threshold of entering a successful career in the arts--including Shannon Debus, now a junior at Riverbend High School, who first entered in the show when she was in seventh grade.
That year, she won an honorable mention for her abstract ink drawing of a crow--and since then, has entered every year, winning first place twice and second place once for drawings ranging from an "erase drawing" of a human skull to a composite portrait of a Victorian lady, composed of more than 150 tiny squares of various shadings and textures.
"The teen art exhibit has been a great way to get my artwork seen and to be recognized," said Debus. "When other students ask me if they should enter their paintings, I say 'Yes! If you like what you've done, get it out there! Let the people see your work and what you can do!'"
Johnson, a pillar of the Fredericksburg arts community, traces his painting career back to a homeroom teacher who once told him that he would never be satisfied in any other field.
"I would encourage anyone who is interested in art and who is serious about pursuing it to enter this exhibit," he said.
His one piece of advice is that young artists should "be themselves," noting: "An abstract painting can convey feeling, a sense of rhythm and color, while a more realistic portrait can go beyond capturing the likeness of an individual to show depth in the interpretation of the character of that individual."
Collette Caprara is a local artist