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  • Thea Foundation

2020 Visual Arts Scholarship Competition Winners

For the first time ever, we hosted Thea’s Visual Arts Scholarship Competition completely online. Due to the pandemic, the deadline was also extended, but we’ve officially selected ten winners from the 170 Arkansas high school seniors who submitted their art for consideration. This year’s theme is “Brilliant, radiant, overcoming the senses” and our judges had a difficult time narrowing down their selections because of all of the strong submissions we received. We are happy to announce this year’s scholarship winners:

1st place — $4,000 (winning art pictured above)

Mary Katherine Dennis

Har-Ber High School

Mary Katherine’s Statement: 

My work is an examination of the parallels between the present and the past. We may be separated by lengths of time, but we are frequently faced with the same problems, although the problems may look different. Creating art pieces that examine these parallels is a way of questioning our attitudes, fears, and behaviors.When I first began work on this piece, coronavirus had just begun to impact China. As the virus spreads, our senses are overcome with fear. 

While reflecting on a time period to focus on, I decided on imperial China, a brilliant and radiant time period of Chinese history, marked by the rise and fall of many dynasties, deadly epidemics, and the rule of Emperors and Empresses. Symbolic meaning played a significant role in imperial China, and that symbolism continues today. The focal point of my piece is based on a photograph of the Last Empress of China, Empress Wanrong. The Empress wears a modern face mask, which has quickly become a symbol of our coronavirus fears as hysteria leads to a mass mask shortage. Behind the empress is a dragon, considered to be one of the most intelligent animals in Chinese mythology. Dragon dances and processions were thought to ward off illnesses and disease, especially during times of epidemics. The dragon is painted yellow, the exclusive color of the imperial household. The background of the piece is a brilliant red, symbolizing happiness, success, and good fortune.

In this piece I chose to combine three very different mediums, charcoal, egg tempera, and gold leaf. Working in charcoal gives me the ability to explore light and contrast. I am able to create an image that looks like an actual photograph. I initially began working with handmade egg tempera to experiment with an ancient medium. I fell in love with its luminescence, versatility, transparency, and smooth, matte finish. I wanted to use both black and white along with color and gold leaf in my artwork in order to honor the history of the last Empress and showcase the beauty and vibrant colors of Chinese culture.

2nd place — $3,500

Courtney Curry 

Pottsville High School 

3rd place — $3,000

Kaitlin Brannon

North Little Rock High School

4th place — $2,500

Autumn Blaylock

Fayetteville High School East 

5th place — $2,000

Morgan Ison 

North Little Rock Center of Excellence

6th place — $2,000

Addy Brymer


7th place — $2,000

McKenzie Horton

Pottsville High School 

8th place — $2,000

Cassie Jankowski


9th place — $2,000

Olivia Falcon

Mount Saint Mary Academy

10th place — $2,000

Kaysie Wilson 

Jonesboro High School  

We are so proud of every student who took part in this year’s competition. The announcements for performing arts and film winners are TBD. Stay tuned. 

#theafoundation #visualarts #arkansastalent #scholarshipwinners

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