By Pete Zamplas- Hendersonville High School’s Aishwarya Kumar won first place in the annual Congressional Art Contest.
Her honor was on home turf, as the reception was in the Historic Courthouse’s Community Room upstairs. Displayed there were many of the 87 entrees (16 more than a year ago), of 62 students from many of the 16 western-most counties of the state in U.S. House District 11. The turnout was 15 more than the 47 students of the 2018 contest.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows honored the students, taking time for the reception from an extra-busy congressional session tackling many issues this year. The powerful House Freedom Caucus leader noted he flew that Saturday morning on April 27 from D.C. for the event, and that it is an “honor to recognize such talent.”
Rep. Meadows proclaimed that “our artwork is always better than the art of any of the other members of Congress.” The overall first-place winner is Aishwarya Kumar of HHS, for her “Big Brown Eyes” portrait. She won a $3,000 scholarship to a prestigious Southeastern art college of her choice, and two round-trip tickets to the student art national reception in D.C.
Her piece and other states’ winners are displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol. A trio of judges chose winners. The area contest, also called the Artistic Discovery Contest, is sponsored by Rep. Meadows.
Students are encouraged to enter more than one piece, and a few did. Their works can be up to 26 by 26 inches in size and four inches in depth. Entries must be an original in concept, design and execution.
Eligible media includes oil, acrylic or watercolor paintings; drawings such as with ink, colored or black pencil, marker, charcoal or pastels; prints such as silkscreen, block or lithographs; mixed media, photography, and in an emerging area computer-generated art.
Kumar sketched much intricate detail of her braided hair, in charcoal. Her hair in the image is in a mass on each side of her head.
Yet for eye-catching contrast, one very curly strand wanders out in front of her left cheek. Also standing out is how various shading gives a realistic look of lighting.
HHS principal Bobby Wilkins and art instructor Courtney Bunn Hoelscher were among those on hand.
Second place went to Brevard High School senior Rachel Malmin, for “Sister.” She painted it showing herself and her younger sister Abigail, when they were ages 14 and ten. Malmin is on track to go to Western Carolina University.
The third and final award went to Hibriten’s Leslie Ramos.
East Henderson’s Dean Wheless also painted an image based on a photo of himself wearing sunglasses — for his “Idol of the Sun.” He chose a background of gold and blue, for sun and sky tones.
Wheless credits longtime East art instructor Robert Wallace. Wheless won a Gold Key national award for student photography.
Dignitaries at the reception included recently-elected Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller, and several from Henderson County including Commissioner Grady Hawkins, Schools Supt. Bo Caldwell, and Board of Public Education Chr. Amy Lynn Holt.
Holt told The Tribune she is especially proud that students from various Henderson County high schools have placed in the top three in recent years, including last year when taking two of the three awards. East Henderson 2018 grad Joshua Grady was second, and West’s Hannah King was third.
There is no limit on the number of students or total entries per school.
Henderson County was as usual well-represented. Henderson County Career Academy, which had one entry in 2018, this time had two — Loren Robinson and Jordan Stroud.
HHS entered works of the most (eight) students of any WNC school. They are Kumar, Zoe Brown, Leah Bruce, Alinne Dothe-Zapote, Brianna Haston, Aryana Norris, Yasmin Salitre Dothe, and Mireille Soss.
West Henderson’s six contestants were Cassie Hart, Addison Hichman, Alex Hradilova, Hannah King, Laurel Welch, and Zoya Zalevskiy.
East Henderson’s four participants were Faith Brookshire, Celeste Chin, Brianna LaRue, and Wheless.
This year, there were no entries from Buncombe County or Asheville students but instead from several neighboring counties such as Madison’s Lauren Gardner and Tuscola’s Renee Conner, Ella Lauresen, Tiffany McAbee and Eleany Tovar-Antonio. Last year, first place went to Pisgah’s Rosalyn Mary White. Smoky Mountain High School entered seven pieces into the ’19 contest.