ST. CLAIR SHORES — In a first for South Lake High School, two students have won national awards for their artwork, an achievement that will send one of them to New York City.
South Lake High School senior Katy VanRheen won a Gold Key award and the Best in Category award for mixed media at the regional Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her yarn-on-wood self-portrait at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts. While South Lake High School art students have done well at the regional competition before, art teacher Erica Marotzke said she has never had a student go on to do what VanRheen did — win a gold medal at the national level for her work.
“I was literally crying,” Marotzke said of learning the news. “We’ve never had, not ever, one kid go on to the national level.”
And while VanRheen took home the gold, that wasn’t the only accolade for the school — junior Sean Beaupre also won a silver medal at the national level.
Beaupre had won one of five American Vision Awards, a Gold Key, a Silver Key and an honorable mention at the regional competition.
“Sean was the first American Vision winner we’ve ever gotten,” Marotzke said. “The American Vision Awards ... are the super elite.”
For her gold medal, VanRheen is invited to attend the award ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City June 7, which she will attend with her father and Marotzke thanks to support from the South Lake Board of Education. The board approved funding for flights and a hotel for the trip, which takes place the day after VanRheen graduates from South Lake.
VanRheen said she always enjoyed arts and crafts when she was younger and had an art class in middle school that she loved, but she couldn’t fit another art class into her schedule in high school until junior year.
Beaupre said he has always been into art and really enjoys drawing. His award-winning pieces are all paintings — one watercolor, one done in tempera paint and one in acrylic. He’s inspired by the world around him and said he enjoys painting landscapes.
Both students said they were very excited when they learned they had won national awards for their work.
“I didn’t realize how big this competition was,” Beaupre said.
VanRheen said she was surprised to even be accepted to the regional competition.
“In my mind, I see all my mistakes,” she said.
Gold medal award-winning artwork will travel around the country after the award ceremony for two years, Marotzke said, and will be featured in places like ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.
She said the art program is already getting a boost from the awards — all of her classes for the 2017-18 school year are full.
“I want our program to stay strong,” she said. “When things like this happen, it definitely makes a difference.”
VanRheen said she’s been inspired by Marotzke’s work with her students and wants to be an art teacher so she can inspire the next generation, and Beaupre hopes to be a special effects artist. He said he is sure that he will always continue drawing and painting.
For more information about the awards, visit artandwriting.org.