WCHS art department

(left to right) Jack Clifford, Margaret Kuchan and Jayme Banzhoff. 

The WCHS art department was one of eight schools in Illinois to be awarded the Illinois Art Education Association (IAEA) “School of Distinction”. The main focus of this award is to bring attention to the importance of quality art education and to recognize the art educators that go above and beyond.

“I was so excited! I hadn’t heard of this award before,” said Margaret Kuchan, one of three teachers in the art department.

The art department received an email last spring explaining that it had been nominated. In that email, the teachers were also given a list of criteria that they had to meet in order to qualify for the award.

“When I saw the criteria for the award, I knew we had a chance to win because we have completed all of the criteria they asked for,” Kuchan said. The art teachers compiled a slideshow, displaying examples of art shows and activities in which WCHS students participated.                  

“I’m very proud of this school’s art program,” said Callie Lauderback, senior art student. “To be awarded something like this warms my heart in knowing that the efforts my teachers put into their daily work is recognized and celebrated. They are truly deserving of recognition as they use every day to push their students to express themselves through various media.” 

The variety of art courses and quality of daily instruction helps students grow their artistic abilities and learn to better express themselves through art.

“It is great to know that the art department at WCHS is officially recognized through this award as the excellent art program I know it to be,” senior Trinaty Unruh, said. 

“It was a lot of affirmation that we have a strong department here at WCHS and that all the work we put into preparing our students through developing our curriculum, participating in shows, and challenging ourselves through our own learning has the value that we knew it does,” added art teacher Jayme Banzhoff.

Washington’s art teachers share a strong dedication and passion for helping students grow and succeed. 

“The art teachers collaborate together as one unit, sharing ideas, and collectively critiquing and fine-tuning the process in which they teach,” Lauderback said.

Students are encouraged by their teachers to further explore art with new techniques, materials and media. 

“Over the past four years, I have seen these teachers shape their curriculums and classroom mentality to allow for creative minds to develop outstanding works,” Lauderback said.

“Having these connections with our students helps us understand their individual art interests and their growth, and that helps push their art expression to another level,” Jack Clifford, Art 1 and graphic designs teacher, added. 

“We have a great team at WCHS,” Banzhoff said. “We each bring different skills and perspectives to the table, and that makes our department stronger and more well-rounded. 

On January 9, the 2021 Scholastic Art Award recipients were announced by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, an organization that promotes scholastic art and writing through an annual nationwide contest. Students submit their creative art and writing projects to a committee for judging. 

In the contest, WCHS students earned a total of 13 Gold Key awards, 19 Silver Key awards and 23 Honorable Mention awards, in addition to a few special awards. 

Senior Callie Lauderback and junior Maya Gurewitz won American Vision Awards. Lauderback also won a Silver Key award for her portfolio. Senior Trinity Unruh received an Honorable Mention for her portfolio. 

Lauderback was awarded the Mayor's Choice award, the JoAnn Gross Memorial Award and the Don & Carole Walton Award. 

Sophomore Taryn Chave received the R.L. Boston Awards Emerging Photographer Award. Unruh received the Longa Longa Prize and the Linda Post-Lucas Creativity Award, and senior Abby Zimmerman received the Wanda Riseman Award.

Artwork will be on display at the Springfield Art Association, 700 N. 4th St., Springfield, IL 62702 through February 27.  Gallery hours are Monday - Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Artwork may also be viewed virtually online at https://sites.google.com/view/scholastic-mid-central-gallery.

The virtual awards will take place February 14 at 1 p.m.

Gold Key recipients’ works will be sent to NYC digitally and be judged for national medals, which will be announced on March 17.

Kuchan said the Scholastic Art Awards contest is just one of 10 that the department participates in annually. 

“From these shows students receive ribbons, trophies, monetary awards, scholarships, gift cards, educational camps and classes and art supplies,” Kuchan said. “We typically do well in most shows and it really gives the students a boost of confidence, pride and experience with having their work hung in a gallery setting as well as providing student connections with the community.”