Artistic talents taking Peters to Big Apple




Yolanda Peters never dreamed she'd have a chance to earn a national award with her artistic talents.

But that's exactly what the South Gray High School senior did, earning an American Visions Medal from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers in drawing for her work, "Tree in The Background."

"I'm super excited. I didn't figure I'd ever have that much talent that I could take it so far with my artwork. To win something that big, it means a lot to me," Peters said.

Kristie Gillespie, Peters' art teacher at South Gray High School the past four years, said out of 230,000 entries in art and writing, Peters was one of 76 entries to receive an American Vision Medal.

"Yolanda is a natural talent. She is an awesome student who can take projects from the normal to extraordinary," Gillespie said. "She is an extremely gifted artist. She has really developed a strong pencil and pastel drawing technique, and she really has a wonderful hand at drawing. She can make the media do things that I am in awe of."

Gillespie said she is very proud of Peters, and thinks she deserves every accolade she gets.

Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the exceptional vision of the nation's youth, and provided the opportunity for students to be noticed for their creative talents.

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit, to present the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and to expand upon the awards' legacy of bringing the exceptional artistic and literary talent of teens to a national audience, according to its website.

Teens in grades seven through 12, from public, private, or home schools, can apply in 28 categories of art and writing for a chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published.

In the past five years, submissions have topped 700,000 works, and students have been eligible for more than $25 million in awards and scholarships.

Peters had to raise $5,000 to attend the awards ceremony on May 31 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Around 1,500 students who receive national awards are invited to the celebration, but the awards organization doesn't pay for travel expenses or tickets to the show.

Peters received a Gold Key for being a regional winner. Gold Key works were automatically entered into national judging by panels of nationally renowned artists, art professionals and arts educators. Jurors select work for national recognition based on originality, technique and emergence of a personal vision, according to the organization's website.

To raise money for the trip, Peters sold prints of her artwork. While the fundraising goal has been met, Peters said she is still selling prints, which will go toward her scholarship fund. Those interested in purchasing a print can contact Peters through Facebook, or by calling or texting her at (620) 937-2236.

Peters, 18, said "Tree in the Background," uses charcoal and pastels in depicting a tractor and a tree in a field. She said it took about three weeks to complete, with most of the work being done during class time.

"The main focus is the tractor with a hay bale on it," she said. "It's pretty much in black and white, except for the yellow pastels for the rim. "

Peters said she liked to draw in junior high, but never thought about taking an art class until she got to high school. She said a friend from Ingalls used to draw quite a bit, and then when she started attending South Gray, Peters decided she wanted to take some lessons.

It wasn't long after she started taking art classes that she learned she had some talent.

"When I was a freshman, I did colored pencils then. I enjoyed them because I hadn't discovered pastels yet. But when I was doing colored pencils, I won a Christmas card contest. I think it was around then that people started saying I was a good artist," she said.

Peters said she likes to work in pastels.

"First, I sketch it with a pencil, and then I like to use pastels or charcoal," she said. "I like to draw farm equipment and nature more than other things."

Peters is the daughter of Cornelius and Judith Peters. She also has two sisters and two brothers. She has never been to New York and is very excited to go.

Some of the things she looks forward to seeing are the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center site. Peters said her mother and Gillespie will make the trip with her. Peters plans to attend Garden City Community College next year and major in art. Right now, she isn't sure what she will eventually do with her degree, but she does plan to draw for people.

"Like, if they have something they want me to draw, I'd like to do that for them," she said.

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