Students rewarded for putting their dreams into art

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Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Winners of the fifth annual Kurt Lattimer Aspiring Artist Award contest are: (from left): Sabrina Burke of London High School, first place; Lauren Howell of Jonathan Alder High School, third place; and Mikala Ridder of Tolles Career & Technical Center by way of West Jefferson High School, second place.

(Posted Feb. 10, 2022)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

Emblazoned on the outside of the building at 58 E. High St. in London are the words, “Where Dreams Come True.”

While written more than five years ago as part of a mural aimed to capture the spirit of the community, those words served as a fitting passage for high school seniors from around Madison County who recently gathered inside the building.

Now Vallery Farmhouse Bakery, the building served as the site for a public reception Feb. 6 celebrating student artwork and aspirations. Those gathered were entrants in the 2022 Kurt Lattimer Aspiring Artist Award contest.

In existence for five years, the contest has garnered a reputation for being challenging because of the theme on which entries must be based: What do you dream of for the future?

“I am actually really proud of that prompt,” said contest co-founder Mick Harris. “When I talk to some students about this contest, they say the question is too hard or that it’s too broad. But do you know what happens when the students actually start to put their dreams onto a canvas and into art? It becomes an inspiration.”

The inspiration for both the aforementioned mural and the contest itself is the late artist Kurt Lattimer. Harris said he had known Kurt for many years through church–“he was always drawing away in the pew”–but struck up a friendship with the younger man when he wanted someone to create a mural on his newly purchased building.

Though it only took Kurt moments to draw up a rendering for a mural, he spent weeks perfecting the artwork and its message.

“That was Kurt,” said Harris. “Always motivating people to reach their dreams.”

Before the mural was completed, Lattimer passed away when an interaction of medications caused his heart to fail. He was 27.

Harris, Harris’s wife Natalie, and Kurt’s immediate family established the Aspiring Artist contest to honor Kurt’s memory.

“This is a contest that is not just for artists,” explained Kurt’s mother, Kim Lattimer-Reeder. “It is for anyone who likes a challenge, for anyone who really wants to think about their future and what it could look like.”

For this year’s crop of entrants, it looked like travel was in their future forecast.

Contest judge Lee Justice-Miller praised the talent of the students who submitted pieces this year. “They were all so unique – they were real thinking pieces.”

Most of the 12 entries submitted this year involved exploring the country and the world.

First place went to Sabrina Burke of London High School for her graphite pencil drawing, “Collection of the Future.” Though the main focus of the piece is a silhouette of her graduating college, the piece also includes cityscapes, remote island streets, and an intricate view of a library.

“It is a representation of everywhere I want to go in life. It’s a representation of everything I want to achieve,” said Burke, who earned $1,000 for taking the top spot in the contest.

Second place and $500 went to Mikala Ridder of Tolles Career & Technical Center by way of West Jefferson High School. In “Veil of Dreams,” Ridder painted a future that includes marrying her long-term boyfriend, Noah, going camping, traveling, and raising a family. For most of the piece, she employed pointillism, a technique in which small dots are applied in a pattern to form an image.

Ridder said she worked all summer on the piece and was surprised and delighted to have placed in the contest.

“There were so many times I walked about this room, looking at the artwork and thought, ‘Oh, wow!’” she said. “Everyone here did such a good job.”

Lauren Howell of Jonathan Alder High School won third place and $250 for her entry, “Bright Future, Big City.”

She said her colorful piece was inspired by her dream of working for a large marketing company in a vibrant place like New York City.

“I just wanted to show it as a fun and bright future for myself in New York and being successful in business,” she explained.

Judge Lee Justice-Miller said it was difficult to whittle down the entries to three winners as this batch offered something that was so different from past contests.

“They were all so unique – they were real thinking pieces,” she said.

Justice-Miller said there were entries this year that employed cubism, graphic design, watercolor and mixed media. She said she and fellow judge, Jackie Bryant Call, struggled with their decision but ultimately decided on Burke, Ridder and Howell for their advanced techniques and the depth of their pieces.

“Everyone who participated should be proud of the work they did,” said Justice-Miller. “I know that I am so proud of the work that they did.”

After the winners were announced, Harris encouraged all of the students to keep working at fulfilling their dreams and continuing to inspire others through their art.

“You all may not think you are artists, but you are all artists,” he said. “And what I want you to do is never, ever tuck away that talent. Who knows what you’re going to become in your daily occupation, but you have this God-given talent and you have to share it with the world.”

All of the artwork submitted for this year’s contest will be on display through the month of February at London City Hall, 20 S. Walnut St.

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