FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — They swept the competition. Won by a mile. Took no prisoners.
Fort Mill High School art students weren’t just among the winners of the 5th district Congressional Art Competition, they were THE winners.
First, second, and third place in the art competition, sponsored by U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-Indian Land), went to Fort Mill High students. Artists from the school also won two honorable mentions.
A third honorable mention was awarded to a Rock Hill High School student.
“We were completely shocked,” said Fort Mill High School art teacher Jessica Calloway.
“This tends to be a competitive showcase with a lot of participation. In the past, just getting an honorable mention was amazing. To have this many winners was unbelievable.”
Marcia Kort Buike of Tega Cay, who has been a leading advocate for the arts in the township area, is the volunteer local district coordinator for the program. She helps promote the contest and assists with the entries.
Catherine Santos placed first with "Solarium," followed by Garrett Bowman in second with "Balcony Above." Third place went to Anastassia Masters with "Smiling Wolf."
Honorable mentions were awarded to Laura Jacques for "Mother Nature’s Offspring" and Sally Frost with "Sneak."
As first-place winner, Santos will have her piece displayed at the U.S. Capitol for one year. In June, she will travel to Washington to join other student art winners from around the country to see her piece unveiled in the student art gallery.
"Solarium," she said, was inspired by a photograph of an asylum. It had a lot of light, she said, and didn’t look like she expected a typical asylum to look.
“It looked like a respite. It contradicts a usual asylum,” Santos said.
Other award winners will have their artwork hung in Mulvaney’s local office in Rock Hill.
Courtney Starrett, Associate Professor of Fine Art at Winthrop University, was the judge for the competition.
When asked how they managed to take all of the top spots in the competition, there is no bragging or boasting among these students. Each of them credits their art teacher.
“We’re very thankful to Mrs. Calloway,” said Frost. “In middle school, I thought I was good but Mrs. Calloway, she really made us good.”
“She helped us find our style,” Bowman said.
“She gives us real critiques and helps us grow,” Santos said.
“She leads us on a path,” Masters said. “She teaches us what she’s learned and what other artists have done and then leads you on your own path.”
For some of the students, placing in the competition was validation that their hard work was paying off.
“It’s encouraging. I went through a period where I wasn’t sure I was good at this. This is encouraging,” Jacques said.
The winners were invited to a reception with Mulvaney last week and some said their parents were excited to meet their congressman. The students made sure to point out how impressed they were by the peach tea served at the reception.
But meeting Mulvaney also made an impression on them, they said. Masters was surprised that a U.S. Congressman would take the time to meet with students and be involved in a student art competition.
“He talked about how he had always been interested in the arts, and he was really sincere,” Santos said. “He was really nice.”
“The whole congressional title, meeting Mick Mulvaney. It’s awesome,” Bowman said.