By Arden White
Photos By Logan Self
Plant City High School students were recognized Monday, Nov. 9, for their art entries in the national Reflections Art Contest.
The award ceremony was held at the John R. Trinkle Center on the Hillsborough Community College campus for the second consecutive year. It honored students in music composition, visual arts, photography, literature, film production and dance choreography. The event was organized by PTA Reflections Chair Sunni Baerwalde and PTSA President Yvonne Fry, and it was sponsored by the Art Council of Plant City.
Before the winners were announced, student entries were displayed at a pop-up art gallery in Plant City Mercantile in October, and students and their families were able to view the pieces.
“We had a lot of success with people coming to view the art work,” Baerwalde said. “We love seeing the community come out to support the young artists.”
Once the community had gotten the chance to view the artwork, judges got their opportunity. The judges this year were Mark Shultz, David Gnage, Taylor Baker, Sophia Hyde and Plant City Times & Observer Managing Editor Amber Jurgensen.
Principal Susan Sullivan was also excited to see all that the students had to offer.
“I believe that this is a great opportunity for our talented students to express themselves,” Sullivan said. “It’s about recognizing their talent and celebrating their creativity. It allows students and their parents to honor the students’ hard work. And our PTSA did an awesome job at making the event such a success.”
PTSA President Yvonne Fry learned of the Reflections contest last year and thought of Baerwalde to be the person to put it all together.
“I knew when Yvonne called me last year with the idea of doing Reflections that I would be a big supporter,” Baerwalde said. “I always love to support the arts. It’s something that’s very important to me and my family.”
The ceremony began with Baerwalde sharing the story of how her music teacher got her started in singing. It is something she has done ever since.
Guest speaker Charles Harris felt similar to Baerwalde. Harris is both a businessman in the local hotel industry and an artist.
“I grew up with my family planning for me to be a car salesman, like my father,” Harris said. “It was during college that I got to explore more of my artistic side and learned that it was something I loved. Even in the work I do today, art always seems to follow me.”
Multiple contestants have been doing art for years, and some have even competed both in both Reflections competitions.
Samantha Sun, who won first place for visual art, also competed in Reflections last year.
“Last year I received first place in my category and really enjoyed the experience,” Sun said. “I’ve always loved art, and
Reflections gives me the opportunity to use that love outside of school. Through the process of submitting a piece, you can a lot of experience and learn how to improve. I love that this gives me the experience of letting the community see my work.”
Niki Carpenter, PCHS art teacher, has been encouraging her students to be a part of the contest.
“A lot of confidence is learned through submitting a piece of art,” Carpenter said. “This allows students to gain recognition for their work and show them what it feels like to have their art displayed at a gallery. We are so lucky that Sunni Baerwalde helped give them this opportunity. I don’t think there’s anything else like it.”
2015 Reflections Art Contest Category Winners
Literature: Madison Manley, “A Soaring Bird”
Music: Benjamin Padgett, “Fall”
Visual Arts: Samantha Sun, “Nefelibata”
Film: Shelby Baerwalde, “Why the Fairies Hide”
Photography: Shelby Baerwalde, “What the Forest Knows”
Dance: Kendall Gaudens
Winner of Best Interpretation of Theme: Madison Manley, “A Soaring Bird”