Eighth grader Alexis Seames’ first place artwork. Submitted photo.

REGION — Twenty-three middle and high school aged kids tapped into their creative side during the month-long Telstar “Graffiti and Word Art Challenge,” which took place from the end of January to the submission deadline on February 26.

Students were tasked to find words that relate to the challenges theme, “Words That Draw Us Together.” Artists had to come up with words that they thought represented unity or perhaps described the people and landscape of their community.

Artists could also choose words that symbolized how they would like to see their hometown evolve or what makes them proud to call it their home. The theme is also the broader subject for The Bethel Mural Project’s mural proposed for later this spring.

The challenge was done in conjunction with Melissa Prescott, Telstar’s middle school art teacher. Mrs. Prescott runs a mural club at Telstar, but the club has been unable to meet because of the pandemic. When Mrs. Prescott learned about the Bethel Mural Project, which is expected to start later this spring, she wondered if there was some way students could become involved. Soon after, Cathy Lane and Mrs. Prescott came up with the idea of doing an art challenge.

“We created this challenge because we want to show as a community that we appreciate and support art,” Lane said.

Bethel Mural Project coordinator, Cathy Lane, BAAM coordinator, Kate Webb and Mural Artist Ryan Adams participated in 6 Zoom classes with Prescott’s community art classes, one of the two types of classes she teaches at Telstar. During the classes, Lane, along with Adams and Webb, talked about the mural project, BAAM and the type of artwork Adams does. This served as a way to tap into what the middle school students think of their community and assist Adams with creating an overall concept for the mural.

The top three finishers – Eighth grader Alexis Seames (first), junior Katie Evans (second) and eighth grader Jordan Robshaw (third) received cash prizes of $250, $150 and $100 respectively. Two more students got honorable mentions, but did not receive prizes. BAAM used the money awarded to them by Bethel Rotary Club for the prizes.

Lane said the winning artworks will be printed and displayed at the Gem Theater during the mural work.

The competition was open to grades six through twelve and students from Telstar, Gould and The Eddy School could participate. Homeschoolers could also join in on the fun. All artists were provided with a set of guidelines to follow, which laid out how their artwork would be scored on a scale from one to ten. Artists could use markers, crayons, colored pencils, paints, digital drawings or stencils to create their work and had to include a small write up as to why their chosen word fits in with the theme “Words That Draw Us Together.”

Adams, who was commissioned to make a community-based mural on the walls of the Gem Theater, will use the student’s artwork as part of his inspiration for the mural design. BAAM and The Bethel Mural Project jointly raised 30,000 to commission Adams.

Lane said BAAM wants to continue doing challenges in the future, with the possibility of mixing up the art mediums.

Of the 23 submissions, one was from Gould, three from the Eddy School, and 19 from Telstar Middle and High School.

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