Two Alta High School students have earned the school's first-ever prestigious Gold Key Art Awards, and the pupils' pieces of art have been sent to New York City, where they will be considered for national awards at the Scholastic National Art Event in mid-March.
Sophomore Liz Pedersen and freshman Jocelyn Otto were two of 50 students from the Northwest Iowa region who were selected for the Gold Key Award after judges reviewed 654 pieces by more than 300 students in grades seven through 12 at an exhibition last month.
Otto's pencil and charcoal drawing was also one of five artworks from the region nominated for the American Vision Award, and Otto would see her drawing displayed at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. if she is selected as a recipient of the award.
Alta High School Visual Arts Educator Linda Ducommun said she was extremely proud of her students, and said her pupils should feel the same way about their achievement.
"It really is a selective process when you have that many pieces of art entered, and to have two from Alta be selected as Gold Key Award winning pieces is really a great accomplishment," Ducommun said. "It's the highest honor one can receive in this region."
Both Otto and Pedersen said they were not expecting to receive the Gold Key Award, but were both excited to receive such a national honor.
"I really was shocked to get the award," Pedersen, who entered an abstract for the competition, said. "I didn't know it was such a big deal at first, but I'm very happy to get the honor."
"I thought it was kind of cool to know that we were the first ones to ever get the Gold Key Award," Otto said. "I didn't think I was going to receive that, because usually judges say something about the artworks that they like, and nobody said anything about mine. Then, I learned that I had won a Gold Key, and it was a pretty good feeling."
Pedersen and Otto will compete against Gold Key finalist works from 90 regional programs across the United States for the national awards. Judges in New York City will review approximately 15,000 works and will select around 700 works of art and 400 writing submissions for the honors.
If either Pedersen or Otto is selected by the panel of judges, they will be invited to attend the National Awards Ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, June 15, where they would be individually recognized for their achievements.
They would also receive copies of the national awards catalog, which features a listing of all the national award winners and selected works of art and writing.
Five of the six Alta High students who entered pieces in the Northwest Iowa regional competition were freshmen or sophomores, and Ducommun said she is looking forward to seeing Otto, Pedersen and the other underclassmen's artistic talents blossom over the next few years.
"I'm really looking forward to the future here for art at Alta," Ducommun said. "It's exciting to think about the potential that these students have."
Senior Keisha Swanson, sophomores Luke Letzring and Jason Siththideth and freshman Charles Ryherd also entered works at the competition.