Slices of time

Co-op calendar serves up 25 years of student art

Posted on Oct 28 2022 in Features
Cover of IEC 2023 calendaer

Just what is 25 years?

It’s 300 months. It’s the “Silver Anniversary.” It’s a quarter of a century, and, for the average American, it’s a third of a lifetime.

Come January, it’s also the amount of time editions of the Cooperative Calendar of Student Art have been adorning walls of electric consumers all over Indiana.

The 2023 calendar — the 25th edition — is now printed and available at participating electric co-ops. (Please see page 11 for distribution details.)

The calendar is illustrated with the  artwork of Indiana students in grades kindergarten through high school senior. These are the winning works from the art contest Indiana’s electric cooperatives held last spring.

The first contest was held in the fall of 1998. Those winning works illustrated the 1999 Cooperative Calendar. For all but one edition since, the calendar  has followed a simple formula. Since there are 12 grades in school and 12 months in a year, first graders are asked to illustrate January; second graders are assigned February; and so on through 12th graders who are assigned December.

Like all calendars, the student art calendar represents a transition of time through a single year. But through the imagination and talent of the students themselves, each turn of the calendar page depicts their transition from childhood to junior high to adulthood. Kindergartners were given the cover to illustrate to welcome each year and open the contest up to all 13 grades.

“We’re proud to have encouraged tens of thousands of young artists to craft such beautiful masterpieces throughout these last 25 years of the calendar art project,” said Emily Schilling, editor of Indiana Connection. “And, by having their artwork reproduced in a wall calendar, we’ve been able to share their talents with so many Hoosiers around the state.”

Schilling and Senior Editor Richard Biever came up with the art contest/calendar concept early in 1998 to celebrate student artists. In addition, the calendar became a much-anticipated holiday gift and informational piece consumers received from participating REMCs/RECs. Indiana Connection staff has been coordinating the project for participating co-ops ever since.

“The calendar is a great way to bring art into homes, and inspire other kids to pick up crayons, pencils and paint brushes and create magic,” Schilling added.

To view the 25th anniversary calendar’s winning student artwork, go here.

By the numbers — 25 editions of calendar art

96,420+ — total number of entries (all grades)

552 — total cash prize winners

$69,100  — total awarded to students for winning Grade Division,
Best of Show and Honorable Mention

325  — grade division winners, K-12

Had his pie, and ate it, too

Best of show winner creates still life for contest and college portfolio

Andrew Zink

Andrew Zink is a student illustrator successfully touching subject matter about as all-encompassing as the initials of his first and last name. 

Landscape? His work as an eighth grader of a backyard bonfire beside a lake on a starry night graced the August page of the 2020 Cooperative Calendar of Student Art.

Figures? His illustration as a 10th grader of a young boy carving a pumpkin illustrated the October page of the 2022 Cooperative Calendar.

Still life? His apple pie on a plate will grace the November page of the 2023 Cooperative Calendar. And the work, which won the 11th grade division in last spring’s Cooperative Calendar of Student Art contest was selected the “Best of Show.”

“Since it was for November,” says Andrew, “our family does this thing with apple pies. It’s just the smell that always reminds me of November. It’s a tradition that stemmed from my mom and dad.” 

More than tradition, it’s how his dad won his mom over.

“Before we started dating,” explains his mom, Kristy, “my husband called me up kind of out of the blue. We didn’t really know each other, we just had mutual friends, and I was sicker than a dog with a cold. The next day, he dropped off a homemade apple pie he made himself with his grandma’s recipe.

“So, he makes apple pies every Thanksgiving. We go up and pick apples in Michigan a lot. Most of the fall is apple pies, ‘apple this’ and ‘apple that.’”

For the artwork, Andrew assembled the objects for the still life … gathered apples and peeled one, cinnamon sticks, canister of flour, plate. But for the scrumptious-looking slice of pie, Andrew admits it’s not his own or even his dad’s. Having created the artwork late last winter for the mid-March deadline, he opted for a frozen apple pie from ALDI that he baked. He then composed and shot as a reference photo of it all to create the illustration. He rendered the work primarily in colored pencil.

Andrew Zink’s Best of Show winning artwork.

Though obviously the pie couldn’t have tasted like his dad’s, he says it was still pretty good. One of the benefits of photographing the pie was it was still edible when he was done. The work not only earned him $200 for his third first-place win in the contest, but $100 extra for being Best of Show.

In addition, the work will become the still life he was still needing as part of the portfolio he plans to submit for his college entrance. 

“Since I didn’t have a still life, I thought this would be a good subject,” he says.

Andrew turns 18 later this month. The home-educated Winona Lake senior plans to attend Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he wants to study gaming animation. Lipscomb is a private Christian liberal arts college with a nationally recognized animation program. 

He had attended public and private Christian schools up through his sophomore year, the last being Lakeland Christian Academy in Winona Lake. He and his parents decided to homeschool his junior and senior years to have the time to concentrate on building a portfolio in hopes of being accepted into Lipscomb’s art program. 

He plans to focus on the gaming side, not the film side, of computer animation.

“I really like designing characters and armor and sci-fi sort of stuff.”

Andrew says he started thinking seriously about art as a career in eighth grade, the year he first won his grade division in the Cooperative Calendar of Student Art contest. He credits his art teacher, Jorie Bail, at Lakeland for encouraging him to pursue his artistic talents.

His mom says the artsy roots for both Andrew and his sister started when they were young. His sister, Emmaline, three years his senior, is already studying art at Lipscomb. She won an honorable mention in 2021’s calendar art contest as a high school senior.

“They’ve been drawing since I could throw the crayons down on the floor and say, ‘Stay busy, I’ve got something to do,’” she says. “They have just been surrounded by it their entire life.”

Andrew draws from both his parents for his artistic inspiration, and not just subject matter. His mom’s a freehand artist and graphic designer who loves illustrating people while his dad is a mechanical engineer who works with computer design in the high-tech world of orthopedic medical devices of which Warsaw is the center.

His mom credits Legos Andrew loved when he was younger to help him see in three-dimensions and translate perspective to paper. An offshoot of Legos in the early 2000s, Bionicles, gave him his first tastes of the science-fiction fantasy and computer animation he now loves. His love of computer gaming furthered that interest.

“He can do very technical drawings,” she says. “So, he gets that technical part and being able to see in three dimensions from his dad.”

Andrew enjoys entering the Cooperative Calendar Art Contest, he says, because it’s statewide. “It’s such a bigger thing than just a local contest. I get to display my art to the entire state.” Plus, he notes he can’t lie: the big cash prize is a nice incentive, too. 

“I always strive to make something different, or just be creative,” he says. “I’ve been always wanting to create stuff that’s nonexistent. I like to create.”

“It’s a God-given talent to create,” says his mom, “so use it, use it.” 

Past winners pursue their passion

With over 550 pieces of art by 442 student artists featured in the Student Art Calendar over its 25 years, it’s hard telling how many of those students have gone on to degrees or careers that directly followed their passion. But two of note are:

Rachel Linnemeier


Rachel Linnemeier (then Rachel Crisp) won her grade division as a junior in the 2007 calendar and a senior in 2008’s. Her work as a junior was also named 2007’s “Best of Show.”

After high school, the Adams Central High School graduate earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from Indiana University’s Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis. She soon began carving out a niche in Indy’s art circles with a series of paintings that created visual plays on words.

She has since moved to Tucson, Arizona, and is still painting. She has had works accepted into exhibitions in many locations including Barcelona and Dublin. From January to March 2023, a self-portrait of hers will be included in an exhibition at the 33 Contemporary Gallery in Chicago.

During the COVID shutdown of many in-person gallery events, she began writing and illustrating a children’s book focused on desert animal facts. She hopes to self-publish it within the next year or two.


Athena Silot

Althena Silot

Readers might remember the portrait of baseball legend Hank Aaron in an Indianapolis Clowns Negro Leagues uniform on the cover of the April 2022 issue. That was painted by Athena Silot, another past winning student artist. Athena was four-time grade division winner, 8th through 11th, appearing in 2013-16 calendars. After graduating from Avon High School, Athena earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. 

She has begun setting up an art studio in a new home outside Peoria, Illinois, where she plans to pursue commissioned and freelance work, and continue painting for exhibitions and for fun.

FIND HER WORK: @arthena600 on Instagram