Riders Win National Art Contest

ST. MARYS — St. Marys students swept the national Eagles art competition this year,  winning three first place prizes and a fourth place prize when judged against third through sixth grade students from all 50 states.

In the third grade category, Navaeh Emerich won first place, among fourth graders, Konnor Houston won second place, among fifth graders Yuki Kawamura won first place, and among sixth graders Keegan Sawmiller won first and Michael Hurley won fourth place.

The Eagles coordinator for the area competition, Ronda Shelby, said the winners first were chosen in the area competition before their pictures were sent to nationals. In the 30 years St. Marys has competed in the competition, Shelby said the city has never had this many winners at the national level before.

The theme this year was “My Hometown” so all entries were St. Marys themed.

“Basically first I thought about Roughriders,” Keegan said. “I wanted to try to make it as colorful and realistic as possible.”

Michael said he wanted to talk about St. Marys over time, which is why his included a time machine.

“My dad was an artist,” Michael said, noting how he acquired his talent.

Middle School Art Teacher Kathy Sites said that when she gave the assignment, she tried to make sure the students found something unique.

Because it was a nationwide contest, she asked students to think of what was exclusive to the area.

“Everyone has a school, everyone has a park,” she said.

Then she tried to encourage good composition, and pushed the students to be as creative and personal as possible.

Konnor said that he tried to bring in the history of St. Marys in his picture. He won second in the school last year.

Yuki, who did a picture of the canal boat said the win was a surprise.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Neveah said she was excited when she won, and happy she could share her grandparents farm in her art piece.

Shelby said she believes the credit for the win goes to the art teachers, Sue Kleinhenz, who teaches at the primary and intermediate level, and Sites.

“I taught with Kathy Sites for over 25 years, and she has more talent in her little finger than most people have in their whole body,” Shelby said.

She described Kleinhenz as an out-of-the-box thinker.

“I’m in awe of what she produces,” Shelby said.

With Sites retiring this year, and her position to possibly go unfilled — which Shelby said would be a great loss for the school.

“She’s there early in the morning, and she takes time out after school for students,” Shelby said. “I have a great deal of respect for them both.”