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Students’ imagination takes flight at airport art show

MANATEE --It took Alexa Carey three weeks to complete a self portrait comprised of tiny little black and white patterned squares, but her efforts paid off in a big way.

Carey was one of 26 winners at the 2010 Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport Student Art Show. She won first place in the high school division, and was awarded a prize of $100 Thursday evening during the opening reception for the show.

“I was surprised,” said the 17-year-old Southeast High School senior afterwards. “It was pretty cool.”

Just making it into the show was a big accomplishment, according to organizers. Almost 800 students submitted artwork to be juried for this year’s show, which is in its eighth year at the airport. Only 100 students made the cut.

Those that made it onto the walls of the alcoves at the airport were the best of the best, said Michael Walley, director of development and community relations for the airport.

“The artwork was absolutely phenomenal,” said Walley. “There’s a lot of talent out there.”

Thursday evening’s celebration and awards presentation was the culmination of months of work by airport officials, according to Walley, who organizes the show. Preparations for the show begin in the spring when a call for artists was sent to art teachers in the Manatee and Sarasota school districts.

Artwork was submitted by early October, and judging took an entire day before the final 100 were decided, said Walley. Both counties were represented with 50 students each.

“The judges are looking at each individual artwork, and judging it on content, execution and effort,” he said.

department professionally prepares each of the art pieces with mats and frames before they are hung. They will remain on the walls of the airport’s ticketing and check-in area for the next 12 months.

It’s a great outreach project for the airport, said Walley, who also was the master of ceremonies at the reception where the students were honored for their accomplishments. More than 300 students, parents, teachers and friends attended the show’s opening reception this year.

“It creates a wonderful relationship between the airport, the community and our children who are our future,” he said.

The art pieces showcased a variety of techniques and mediums. Matthew Nagle, 15, took third place in his age group for a rendering of an octopus in oil pastels and primary colors.

“I always like to draw octopi,” said the Lakewood Ranch High School freshman. “I like the way they move and stuff.”

Allison Rose Higginbotham, 11, won first place in her age group for a design she called a “mythical creature” which took her two class periods to complete.

“I just kind of created that,” said the McNeal Elementary School fifth-grader. “It’s a mix of all things.”

Zoe Polivchak, 7, drew a self portrait using crayons. It earned her second place in her age group.

She was thrilled.

“I think it’s exciting,” said the McNeal Elementary School first grader, while admiring her art alongside her parents. “I really like to do sunsets so I decided to do me and a sunset.”

McNeal Elementary School art teacher, Audre Marans, was excited that Polivchak and two other students made it into the show.

Two out of three won awards.

“They’re just terrifically talented,” she said. “I give them a lot of credit. They take their imaginations and run with it.”

Bob Waechter, chairman of the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, was impressed with how the art show and the artwork has evolved since the show began eight years ago.

“The turnout was unbelievable,” he said. “The kids are becoming more demanding of themselves. Now it’s become a real chore to pick out the winners. They are that good.”