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Clinton Township, Macomb Township

Algonquin student wins prestigious art award

January 22, 2014

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Kevin Anderson, a seventh-grader at Algonquin Middle School, was recently named one of five regional winners of an American Vision Award, part of the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. — Photo by Erin Sanchez
In his award-winning submission, “On Top of the Sun,” Anderson digitally altered a photo of himself standing with his classmates, Craig Paige and Enrique Miranda, next to a tower made of newspaper. — Photo provided by Dustin Coleman

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Kevin Anderson didn’t realize that he was doing something special until other people told him so.

Last fall, the seventh-grader at Algonquin Middle School created some digitally edited photos for his art class, using computer software to radically boost the color and tweak the brightness to his liking. He later submitted some of his imaginatively altered photos to the Scholastic Art Awards at the suggestion of his art teacher, Dustin Coleman. Earlier this month, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of his images had been selected for Scholastic’s American Vision Award, which is reserved for pieces that are considered Best in Show.

“I didn’t think I stood a chance to win just by changing the way a photo looks, but obviously I did,” Anderson said. “It was really exciting because I’ve never really won anything before. It’s definitely something that I’m proud of.”

Anderson’s mom, Vickie, was even more surprised when she learned about her son’s accomplishment after receiving a phone call from Coleman.

“When Kevin’s teacher called me, my heart sank because I thought he was in trouble,” she recalled. “I thought to myself, ‘Uh-oh. What did he do?’ I was driving home from work when I found out, and I was shocked. My mouth dropped open, and it stayed that way the rest of the way home.”

Anderson’s award-winning photo, titled “On Top of the Sun,” features him and two of his classmates standing in front of what appears to be a metal lattice tower mounted on a scorching-hot surface. In reality, the tower is made of rolled-up newspapers, and Anderson and his friends are huddled on the pavement behind Algonquin. Computer editing allowed Anderson to give the photo its otherworldly atmosphere, with a piercing orange sky and soft edges framing the three boys and the tower. It all adds up to an image that looks like a scientific exploration on the surface of the sun.

“That’s not necessarily what I was trying to do — it kind of just turned out that way after I played around with it for a little while,” explained Anderson, who was using digital editing software for the first time, with the help of his teacher. “I just thought it looked really cool like that.”

Coleman pointed out that in order to further create the effect of an alternate reality — and to make the project more fun — Anderson used newspaper to make costumes for himself in the photos, donning wings like a pterodactyl, and a cape and helmet like a superhero. The award-winning image came when Coleman snapped a photo of Anderson and his friends while they were trying to repair a piece of the tower that had broken.

“We were able to do some neat things to make it look like the image is glowing,” Coleman said. “Kevin manipulated the photo to create something really cool and unique. I think it’s very important for kids to learn how to use this technology because this is where art is going next. It’s definitely the wave of the future.”

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are run by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization that supports talented youth across the U.S. Each year, the awards provide an opportunity for more than 250,000 students in grades 7-12 to earn regional and national honors. Graduating high school seniors who submit portfolios of their work also have the chance to compete for more than $1.5 million in college scholarships.

Algonquin submitted 46 works of art by 32 student artists this year, and 13 pieces by 12 students were accepted into the regional Scholastic Art Awards. The competition included more than 2,300 selections by middle school and high school students from Macomb, Huron, Lapeer, Sanilac and St. Clair counties.

Out of this huge array of student artwork, Anderson’s photo was just one of five pieces to receive an American Vision Award. In addition, nearly a dozen other Algonquin students were selected as Gold Key winners, which are given to the top 7-10 percent of regional submissions; Silver Key winners, which are given to the next 10-15 percent; and Honorable Mention winners, which are given to the next 15-20 percent after that.

On Jan. 27, Anderson and his family plan to attend the Scholastic Art Awards’ regional awards ceremony at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on Macomb Community College’s center campus. An exhibition of all the regional winners will then be on display at the Lorenzo Cultural Center from Jan. 28-Feb. 10.

Vickie Anderson said that she is “very proud” of her son and is looking forward to the ceremony.

“To be honored like this, that’s a huge thing, especially for a 12-year-old,” she said.

Coleman is a firm believer in encouraging students to pursue art through positive reinforcement, which is one of the benefits that the Scholastic Art Awards can provide.

“It’s always great to get our students’ artwork out there to be judged,” he said. “For some of them, you can tell that this is like the start of their art career. When you see these kids having their talents recognized, you know this is exactly where they’re supposed to be.”

Vickie Anderson noted that with Kevin’s love of drawing, building things out of paper and working with his hands, he is “following in the footsteps” of his father, who shares similar artistic talents. Coleman, meanwhile, feels that Kevin is on track for an artistic future as bright as the sun-drenched sky captured in his award-winning photo.

“I love the fact that Kevin got this award because his work is always so unique and creative,” Coleman said. “His imagination is just fantastic, and he has such a great sense of vision. As an art teacher, my job is to nurture that kind of talent in all of my students by making sure that they feel free and comfortable enough to express who they are. I’m constantly amazed by the things they’re able to create.”

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