By Maria Jose Subiria
Henry County students took first and second place Saturday in the13th Congressional District of Georgia 2009 High School Art Competition held at the Arts Clayton Gallery in downtown Jonesboro.
The competition's awards event attracted more than 150 people to the gallery, where 102 pieces by 75 student artists have been on display this month.
Of the competition's six top winners, four are from Clayton and Henry counties.
"The Lord says, 'I give you light, so let your light shine,'" said U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), who represents the district, which includes parts of Cobb, Clayton, Douglas, Fulton, Henry and DeKalb counties. "I think what we do with this is help the kids' light shine, and that's the magic."
The first- and second-place winners in the competition were Stockbridge High School students Tawanna Webster and Megan Pitts.
Webster, an 18-year-old senior, won first place for her piece titled "The Closet," a colorful photograph of hanging garments, shot from an unusual angle.
"'The Closet' was actually a summer project for my A.P. art class, and I decided to lay down on the floor and take a picture looking upward at my clothes," said Webster. "I took about 10 shots, but the colors stood out most to me."
She is eligible to receive a $10,000 scholarship to the Art Institute of Atlanta, and a $6,000 scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design. Webster will also have the privilege to have her work exhibited in the Cannon Tunnel at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
"I am looking at SCAD, because I want to be a fashion photographer," said Webster.
Pitts, 18, a senior at Stockbridge High School, won second place for her art piece titled "When Life Gives You Lemons."
"It took me two days to complete the project, and I used India ink - it's like calligraphy ink," said Pitts. "I like lemons and how they look, and the girl is in pink lemonade, with lemons reflecting her life. I think the bright colors, and pink, bring you happiness."
Pitts is eligible for a $5,000 scholarship to the Art Institute of Atlanta, and will have her work displayed in Scott's Washington, D.C., office.
"Yesterday, which was my birthday, I told the kids that if any of them won in today's competition, that will be the biggest present of all," said Stockbridge High School art teacher Rebecca Paine.
Fifth and sixth places were awarded to Clayton County students Nicole Ghraizi and Anthony Lee.
Ghraizi, a senior at Mt. Zion High School, placed fifth for her piece titled "Creation."
"I used acrylic paint, and I spent three weeks on it," Ghraizi said. "I like painting people a lot."
Lee, a 17-year-old junior at Hope Christian Academy and the winner of the Patron's Award at Arts Clayton's 2009 Juried Show and Competition last month, placed sixth for his piece titled "Impossible is Nothing."
Lee said his piece was completed in 13 1/2 hours, using charcoal and color pencil. The work features an image of President Barack Obama with the American flag waving in the background.
"I felt excited and shocked that I was able to win," said Lee. "I plan to enter next year, and I am already thinking about my next art piece."
Karen Powers, gallery manager for Arts Clayton, said having four of the competition's six winners come from the south side is indicative of the area's thriving arts community.
"I think that it shows the support of the arts in the Southern Crescent," said Powers. "When you have a strong love and support for the arts, you have a strong community."
The third-place winner was Erik Abarca, from Lithia Springs High School, for his piece titled "The Bald Eagle." Fourth place was awarded to Ashley Belen Scheren, of Creekside High School in Fairburn, for her piece titled "Bumble Bee."
Abarca is eligible for a $2,500 scholarship to the Art Institute of Atlanta, and his art work will be displayed in Scott's Jonesboro office.
Scheren's work will be displayed in Scott's Smyrna office.
Scott began hosting the competition when he took office in 2002, he said, to help students who excel in areas other than athletics have a chance at winning college scholarships.
"This is very important to me, because art helped me," said Scott. "'The Ten Commandments' was the movie that inspired me to do art when I was 10 years old. Every bit of that movie was a painting of some sort."
The judge who determined the six winners was Lanny Milbrandt, retired dean of the College of Arts at Valdosta State University.
"He had some very difficult choices to make," said Powers.