Scappoose student is winning by design
A Scappoose teen will have her original artwork featured on hundreds of t-shirts throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington after earning first place in a design competition.
Julia Ellis, an incoming freshman at Scappoose High School, was selected as the winner of a t-shirt design contest for Run for the Arts, a branch of the nonprofit Young Audiences, an arts-in-education group serving Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Young Audiences is an educational nonprofit that connects schools with teaching artists, performance groups, artists in residency and other programs to promote art education in schools.
When Julia's mom, Kenda Ellis, got a notification email stating her daughter had earned the grand prize for the contest earlier this year, they were both excited.
"I think I kind of blew up like a bomb with the word excitement written all over it," Julia said when asked about how she felt winning the first-place award.
Run for the Arts helps provide schools with materials, such as posters, signup forms and t-shirts for participants, to host a jog-a-thon fundraiser. Ellis' t-shirt design will be printed on the Run for the Arts materials for the 2018-19 school year.
Kristi Riedel, a program director with Young Audiences, explained that money raised at the jog-a-thon is set aside in a fund allowing the participating school to purchase art supplies, help pay for art-related field trips, pay for Young Audiences speakers or events, or really fund anything that can be justified as contributing to art education.
Young Audience judges sought a creative and original artist to pin as winner of the design contest, Riedel said.
"We encourage them to be creative with it, and when we're looking at them we see a lot of similar designs — typically a lot of runners and feet and kind of the running theme, and this particular design stood out because it was not kind of that generic design, but it still tied in the idea of arts," Riedel said, noting how Ellis used dragons as artists to illustrate the word "art" in her design.
Julia said she generally enjoys drawing dragons and felt like they could be incorporated into the project.
"I'm a person who loves to draw dragons and I like trying new things with my dragons," Julia said.
As the first-place winner, Julia gets to hold the title of "featured artist," Riedel explained. Also, in addition to receiving a cash prize of $350, she will be included in the printing and production process when the t-shirts are made.
Young Audiences includes students in its processes as much as possible to help legitimize their work as young artists. Later this year, Julia will work with Portland graphic designer Miguel Elias at MEK Design who will help adjust the image to provide for a higher quality t-shirt print. She will also get to tour the Oregon Screen Impressions facility in Portland when the t-shirts are being produced.
"We are really interested in making sure that student voice is prominent in everything we do, and we want students to feel represented in the prizes they get," said Koko Olszewski, a community engagement manager with Young Audiences.
Seven other Scappoose students were also selected as top finalists for the t-shirt design contest. Run for the Arts will host a gallery show to display artwork of all finalists later this year, although exact details have not been finalized.
Ellis' former art teacher, X.K. Austin at Scappoose Middle School, expressed his excitement for Julia.
"This is such a wonderful program that helps connect students to all forms of art," Austin stated in an email to the Spotlight. "And I am ECSTATICALLY HAPPY FOR JULIA! This is a huge honor for her."
While Scappoose schools don't currently participate in the Run for the Arts program, Austin and Olszewski plan to meet with Interim Superintendent Paul Peterson in August to discuss bringing the program to the district.
In 2014 and 2015, Young Audiences brought several artists to various Columbia County schools, including Taiko drummers, Latin American musicians and a cartoonist.
Kenda Ellis said Julia had really taken to the artistic process over the span of her middle school experience. Julia agreed, noting she felt like she expanded her skillset as a young artist and learned more about perspectives and different art mediums.