A Salute to Student Art

We received almost 3,300 entries in our 11th annual student art contest. Meet our ‘artist of the year’ and then link to thumbnails of the winning works for grades kindergarten-12.

Posted on May 16 2008 in Features, For Youth

Artist of the year ‘works’ at his art

The work of art winning the Best of Show in this year’s cooperative calendar of student art contest depicts children at play. But “work” was the operative word for this piece of art.

Sophomore Kenny Martin and his Whitko High School art teacher, Walter Malicki, both agreed that Kenny worked incredibly hard on the black and white pencil drawing. It’s a standard Malicki has set for his art students. That work paid off in a tangible way. It won both the 10th grade division for October and earned Kenny the “Artist of the Year” honor.


Kenny Martin is the latest in a long line of Whitko High School students to win a first place or honorable mention in the annual cooperative calendar art contest, continuing a streak going back to 2001. He is, however, the first student of Whitko art teacher Walter Malicki, right, to win best of show. The sophomore’s pencil drawing, based on a photo of him and his sister that was taken by their dad at a Wabash city park when they were little, will represent October in the 2009 Cooperative Calendar of Student Art. Electric Consumer and participating co-ops sponsor and produce the calendar and contest each year.

Both awards earned Kenny $300 in all.

The drawing was based on a photo made by Kenny’s father some years ago of Kenny and his little sister on a sliding board at a Wabash city park. For the illustration, Kenny “weatherized” the photo. He said once he added fallen leaves and twigs, “Then it became October.”

All 13 of the contest’s grade division winning works, kindergarten through 12, will illustrate the cover and the 12 months of the Cooperative Calendar of Student Art 2009. The 2009 edition will be the 11th featuring the works of Indiana student artists.

For the contest each year, each grade is assigned the corresponding month of the year: first graders have the first month, January; second graders have February; and so on. Kindergartners illustrate the cover. The works of nine other students were selected as honorable mention winners and will appear in a special section in the back of the calendar. Calendars will be distributed or available to consumers of participating electric co-ops in early fall.

Almost 3,300 pieces of art were entered in the contest, sponsored by Electric Consumer and Indiana’s electric co-ops. The deadline was March 14. The contest was judged March 24.

A tradition of art excellence

While Kenny is Whitko’s first “Artist of the Year” in the electric co-op art contest, he’s not the first winner from Whitko. In fact, the South Whitley school has been the contest’s most prolific producer of winning artists.

This will be the ninth consecutive calendar that has featured a first place or honorable mention work by a Whitko student. Six of those years included first place winners. Many of those winners have gone on to study art in college.

martinart-224x300Malicki said he gears up his students each year for this contest by pulling some of his best students aside and showing them the past calendars. It instills in them a sense of pride and tradition that makes them want to excel and succeed. He noted that sometimes inspiring students to do their best in contests isn’t easy because they don’t think they have a chance.

“The hardest thing is to have the kids believe in you.” But with the calendar contest, he said it’s different.

“Sometimes it’s nice to say ‘look … you know this kid. You know he won,’” he said. “It brings recognition to our community and our school, and it’s a sense of pride. They want to do well. They want to represent our school.”

Malicki said Whitko High School, with just under 500 students, has built an art tradition — the way some schools have for athletics. “There are expectations when you walk in here,” he said, referring to his classes in newly remodeled and expanded art rooms. So just as some student athletes are inspired to perform at a higher level by merely slipping on a jersey with their school’s name across it — and understand excellence is expected — Whitko students, he said, sense that same pride and work ethic in the artwork coming from the school. “This is not a class to goof around in,” he noted.

Whitko, for example, also just earned a proclamation from the Indiana General Assembly recognizing the school’s participation in the 38th World School Children’s Art Exhibition in the Republic of China. The new Whitko school superintendent Steve Clason took time out of his busy day to congratulate Kenny the day Electric Consumer came to visit.

Kenny is a first-year art student, taking art as part of the state honors program. But art is more than just a required course for him. “I’ve always loved to draw,” Kenny said. “My dad says he could see me going forward with art.”

Kenny noted his dad, Charles, an artist and muralist on the side, is a big influence on his art. “He keeps pushing me to get more out of me.” Kenny also added that he’s thinking about studying architecture in college, which would combine his love of mathematics with aesthetics and drawing.

“Kenny is very talented,” noted Malicki and will do well at whatever he does. Whether he makes art part of his livelihood, or just something on the side, is something he’ll decide down the road. But, as Malicki noted, “Art is something you can enjoy for the rest of your life.”