A seventh grade class at the Louis Armstrong School in Elmhurst won first place in a citywide art contest, and the students recently got the opportunity to show off their winning mural and even paint with renowned artist Wyland.
Students had to draw and paint a mural focused on the environment as part of the “Global Green Artist Challenge," and the winning students from Louis Armstrong School were special guest of marine-artist Wyland at the recent Artexpo held in the New York Javits Center.
“The kids were treated like royalty;” said Louis Armstrong art teacher Nancy Klein, referring to medals with Wyland Ambassadors, T-shirts and even a meal with Wyland and his mother. “He has such a way with children to really make them feel special, and he wants to get his message out there through the children.”
When Klein first found out about the contest, which was open to middle schools throughout the city, she assigned the students homework to think about what type of things they wanted to draw and paint. The students researched Wyland, who is a painter, sculptor, photographer, writer and SCUBA diver and one of America’s most unique creative influences, and a leading advocate for marine resource conservation.
Then, the students submitted sketches of what drawings they wanted to include in their 10-foot-by-10-foot mural to their teacher, and together they came up with a plan for their mural. During the next five days, the students took on different assignments about sketching and painting the mural.
“My favorite part was painting the animals since those are the endangered ones,” said seventh grader Anita Suvasia, who talked about sea turtles and birds amongst the animals she painted. “We all painted different parts of the project,” Suvasia said. Everybody participated, and it was very fun.”
“We got to draw a lot of different animals and be creative and use our imagination,” said student Kuirsie Bautista.
After they submitted their mural for the contest, the students were not expecting to win, but Klein got a call during the school’s February vacation that her class’ project was chosen as the winner. She was so excited that she couldn’t wait for school to resume to tell some of her students so she got in touch with them at home to share the good news.
“I was actually really shocked because it just went by so fast,” said seventh grader Samantha Moreyn. “It was a lot of fun; I didn’t think we would win.”
Part of the prize for winning the contest was a trip to the Javits Center to meet Wyland – the students’ inspiration for and one of the founders of the project – who was in town for the five-day International Artexpo. The students spoke to Wyland and other renowned artists at the expo.
“We asked for their autographs,” Bautista said. “It was awesome.”