By Carson Gerber Kokomo Tribune
---- — PERU – A 16-year-old Peru High School junior has won a prestigious national art award for her drawing titled “Behind Bars.”
Kaylee Anderson beat out more than 250,000 art and writing pieces submitted by students from every state in the nation to win a gold medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
By landing a national gold medal, Anderson has joined an elite group of winners that include famous artists and writers like Stephen King, Andy Warhol and Truman Capote.
Since 1923, the Awards has recognized the exceptional vision of the nation’s youth, and provided an opportunity for students to be noticed for their creative talents, according to its website.
Anderson said it was a mixed bag of feelings when she found out she won.
“I can be self-conscious sometimes, and I tried to be humble about it,” she said. “But I was excited. It’s really cool.”
Anderson said her china-marker drawing depicts her younger cousin, Nathan, standing behind a chain-link fence with an ambiguously sad look on his face.
She said she drew the picture from a photo, which she liked because it seemed open to interpretation.
“It just feels like there could be many meanings to it,” she said.
Mike Applegate, an art teacher at the school who submitted Anderson’s piece to the competition, said it’s easy to see why the 18x24-inch drawing won the award, but it’s hard to pin down what makes it so compelling.
“The easiest way to explain it is just to look at it,” he said. “You’ll see the reason. It tells a story. You get a certain feeling when you look at it. It’s incredible.”
Applegate said he submitted more than 100 pieces created in the school’s art classes to the regional competition. Out of those, 35 made it the national level, and only Anderson’s drawing won a gold medal.
It’s only the third time a Peru High School student has won the award, he said. The last time was four years ago.
At nationals, the drawing went up against over 250,000 pieces of art and writing in categories like painting, sculpture, poetry, photography and journalism.
Out of all of those, only around 1,800 pieces were chosen for an award.
“Those numbers just show how rare of an honor this is,” Applegate said. “I’d say Kaylee’s piece is now considered one of the best 100 drawings in the country.”
Anderson said she plans to attend an awards ceremony with her parents on June 6 in New York City at Carnegie Hall.
“That’s really awesome,” Applegate said. “I’ve been to New York and I haven’t even been to Carnegie Hall.”
Anderson said she’s been drawing ever since she was a kid, and it’s kind of a family affair. Her older sister is currently attending Indiana University Kokomo to study art.
“My whole family likes to draw,” she said. “I have a whole sketch book at home that just has drawings and doodles in it.”
Anderson said she plans on taking lots of art classes next year, when she’s a senior. After that, she said she’d like to head to the Art Institute of Indianapolis to major in fashion design.
“I would love to do something with art, but I’m going for fashion design,” she said. “I love clothing. I like to think of new styles that could become popular, and it’s fun to express yourself through the texture and fabric.”
Whatever Anderson decides to do, Applegate said she’ll go far.
“She’s going to succeed,” he said. “Whatever she tries to do, she’ll do great.”
He said it’s Anderson’s raw talent that won her the award, but it helps that the school is a big advocate for the arts.
“None of this would have been possible without this administration,” he said. “They’ve been so supportive.”
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @carsongerber1.