3 Valley art students win national awards

Lily Lange, who will be a senior at Boardman High School this fall, won a silver medal for her sculpture titled “Specimen Breakout” at the National Scholastic Art Competition in New York City on Wednesday. She earned a Gold Key at the regional competition in December to qualify.

Three local students — one each from Boardman, Hubbard and Howland — earned awards at the National Scholastic Art Competition in New York City last week, with two of them earning gold medals for their work.

Lily Lange, who will be a senior at Boardman High School, won a silver medal for her sculpture titled “Specimen Breakout.” She earned a Gold Key at the regional competition in December to qualify for the national contest.

More than 340,000 pieces of artwork were entered into the Scholastic Art Competition and 110,000 students competed, according to Hubbard High School art teacher Josh MacMillan, NEO Scholastics Coordinator for Region 11. Only 2,500 students earned a national award and the three local students were the only ones from the region to win.

Lily’s sculpture is made from polymer clay, resin, a glass jar, wood, nails, acrylic paint, chains, nails and moss. The premise of this Art 3 project at Boardman High was to create a fantastical creature that looked like a wet specimen, preserved in a jar, according to a news release from Boardman High School.

“Lily took it way beyond the project requirements and crafted everything around the jar to enhance the creature she made,” said Kate Burnside, Lily’s art teacher. “She was meticulous with the construction of the creature and spent hours sculpting and painting it. Lily is highly motivated with an incredible work ethic, and is also just a joy to have in class.”

“The recognition for both my student and our program at Boardman is great. We pride ourselves on having a strong program, K-12, and the successes are the result of that strength. We have such supportive administration and parents when it comes to the arts. I hope that will continue for years to come, especially as we continue to achieve at such a high level,” Burnside continued.

After high school, Lily plans on entering the arts or interior design architecture at Kent State University or Youngstown State University.

“I think all the work I have done over the years was something that I truly enjoy doing, and it pays off in the end, and getting such a huge reward really motivates me to keep doing what I do and to never give it up,” she said.

Aubrey Panigall, who recently graduated from Hubbard High School, won a gold medal in New York and also received the American Vision Award, which MacMillan said is the highest honor that a student can earn in the Scholastics competition.

“Her linoleum block print of multicolored betta fish and old linoleum blocks with different types of leaves and flowers were arranged on a dark blue mat board in a way that I’ve never seen before,” MacMillan, Aubrey’s art teacher, said.

He said during regional competition in December, one of the judges said, “I’ve never seen a print like that before.”

“The most memorable part of this whole experience was when Mr. MacMillan called my parents and myself to share the news that my piece won a gold key (at regionals) and was going straight to nationals. Then when I found out it won a national gold and the American Vision Medal, I was overwhelmed. I am so grateful because art is something I put a lot of effort and thought into with every piece I make. I feel so lucky to share it now with the entire country through this award,” Aubrey said.

Also winning a gold award at the national contest was Katherine Toepfer, who recently graduated from Howland High School. Her piece is a very detailed photograph of a rooster that makes the observer feel it is staring directly back at them.

MacMillan said her teacher, Brian O’Dell, is one of the best digital media art educators in the area and when asked to reflect on the experience of his first national medal, he kept his thoughts on his students.

“I can say I hope it inspires other students to get involved in the arts and try to do something that they may not normally do,” O’Dell said.

This was O’Dell’s last opportunity to enter work at the high school level as he will be teaching at the middle school this school year, MacMillan said.

On her win, Katie said, “It is both humbling and inspiring to be honored alongside such talented artists from across the country. This gold medal encourages me to continue working hard and experimenting with new forms of artistic expression. Having chosen graphic design as my field, this motivates me to work with my whole heart in finalizing every art piece, no matter how tedious, because the final product makes it all worth it.”

As an art instructor and the regional coordinator for the Scholastic show, MacMillan has a unique view who not only gets to share these experiences with his students, but with all art educators who go out of their way to put their students’ works in showcases throughout the year.

“Participating in these shows is not a job requirement of our Valley’s teachers. This is something they do because they care about their content, believe in their students and love seeing them succeed. The hours spent registering, setting up and taking down the show at Youngstown State in January are the moments that people do not see,” MacMillan said.

“I’ve always felt blessed when students like Aubrey reach a goal they may not have thought was attainable. When I started 20 years ago, I didn’t know if achievements like this were actually possible for schools as small as ours. Being able to call my students and their families as well as great educators like Kate and Brian to hear their joy for their accomplishments, makes me one of the luckiest educators in our Valley.”

All three will receive their medals later this summer. There will be no national ceremony this year, but all their pieces are expected to be shipped and hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City this fall.

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