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Artwork puts regional students front and center

Jeni Gordon, a 12th-grader from New London-Spicer, poses Wednesday next to her scratchboard piece featuring a lion’s face. Gordon was competing in the Minnesota State High School League Region 5A Visual Arts Festival in New London. The festival featured the works of more than 160 students from 11 regional schools. (PHOTOS BY DAN BURDETT | TRIBUNE)

To Jeni Gordon, art is a simple distraction from daily life.

“I just draw to pass the time,” the 12th-grader from New London-Spicer remarked Wednesday from the district’s Middle School Gymnasium, while showcasing her latest artwork.

For Everett Eken, a 10-grader from Eden Valley-Watkins, art means much more: it offers serenity, a place for ideas to become reality.

“I just like abstract themes,” he said from the other side of the gym, while discussing a cobalt-colored molding he crafted in the form of waves pounding against a shoreline.

Everett Eken discusses his piece with his art teacher Carolyn Becher.The students’ contrasting credos were in line with hundreds of pieces displayed in the gym, illustrating art in its most organic and diverse forms.

More than 160 students from NLS and 11 other school districts from across the region presented their work as part of the Minnesota State High School League Region 5A Visual Arts Festival. It was the 15th year New London-Spicer has played host to the event.

The pieces were entered in nine varying categories: drawing, painting, sculpture, media arts, crafts, printmaking, ceramics, 2-D/mixed design and graphic design. A panel of 13 judges then selected the best entries in each category.

Each winner is now eligible to present their work and discuss their artistic process May 21 at the annual MSHSL Visual Art Festival at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley.

Gordon will make that trip after her scratchboard of a lion’s face and mane won the judge’s award in the drawing category.

Willmar artist Ron Adams, who was on the judges panel, called the piece exceptional.

“My Lincoln Continental” by Zachary Nordmeyer, a 12th-grader in the New London-Spicer School District.

“I like how it came together,” Gordon said through a broad smile as a group of friends and fellow students snapped photos with their cellphones. “I like the contrast.”

Carolyn Becher touted the festival and the exposure it offers the students.

She is an art teacher at Eden Valley-Watkins Schools and accompanied Eken to the event.

While applauding during the awards presentation portion of the festival, she was succinct in her analysis of what art offers students.

“Frankly, I think this world would be a better place if more kids were able to develop an interest in art,” she said. “We’d have more inventors. We’d have more, well, everything.”

The MSHSL is a voluntary nonprofit association of public and private schools that boasts a membership of some 500 schools across the state. These schools provide opportunities for athletics and fine arts competition for more than 200,000 high school students statewide each year, according to the MSHSL website.

For more information on the MSHSL Visual Art Festival in Golden Valley, visit Under the activities header, scroll down to Visual Arts.

Judges winners

The following students won the judges awards.

  • Drawing: Jeni Gordon, New London-Spicer School District
  • Painting: Molly Otremba, Pierz Public Schools
  • Sculpture: Sam Ellinger, Kimball Area Public Schools
  • Media arts: Peter Loiacono, Annandale High School
  • Crafts: Jacenta Kresky, St. Cloud Cathedral High School
  • Printmaking: Gabby Helland, New London-Spicer School District
  • Ceramics: Grant Smith, Holy Family Catholic High School
  • 2D/mixed media: Payton Stockler, Foley Public Schools
  • Graphic design: Noelle Reuck, Pierz Pierz Public Schools
Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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