Local school board members were treated to an impressive display of creativity, and judges faced some tough decisions in selecting the 2017 winners of the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Valley Regional Art Contest on March 8. Student art from the elementary, middle, and high school levels represented each school division in the competition, which was judged at the Valley Regional Spring Forum in Buena Vista, VA, for area school board members.
Shenandoah County Public Schools is honored to announce that SCPS is home to two regional winners. Artwork by Unity Sky Love Neff, an eighth grade student at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, placed second in the Middle School competition. Artwork by Georgina Perez Torres, a Grade 12 student at Central High School, placed second in the High School competition. ( A complete list of winners appears at the end of this article.)
“It is exciting to have two second place winners,” commented Karen Whetzel, Chairman of the Shenandoah County School Board. “In my years as a member of the school board, I do not remember ever having the honor of two winners.” Dr. Johnston noted that “the strong arts program is a hallmark of Shenandoah County Public Schools. The beauty and quality of these award winning paintings are a tribute, not only to the student winners but to all of our art students and teachers and the value placed on the arts by our community.”
| Dr. Mark Johnston, Superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools, proudly displays the school division's winners in the VSBA's Regional Art Competition. Left, Unity Neff's African Sunset. On the right, Georgina Perez Torres' Winter Walk.
Unity Neff has always enjoyed art, even as a little child. She prefers painting with watercolors, and pastels are her favorite colors. As for topics for her work, she will paint “anything,” she said, “even portraits.” While her favorite subject is Spanish, Unity does enjoy art class and also paints in her free time. An eighth grader at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, she is still thinking about whether she wants to pursue art as a career or keep it in her life as a hobby.
Unity Sky Love Neff
Peter Muhlenberg Middle School
Knowing the title of Unity’s art work, African Sunset, adds meaning to the colors of the elephant. There’s the pink of the evening sky, the yellow of the sun, and the white of clouds surrounding and inside the elephant. Unity pointed out the tree trunk and branches within the elephant’s trunk and the shadow-like outline of little elephants on the creature’s legs.
“Unity is a very talented young lady,” said Karen Girouard, her art teacher at PMMS. “Not only does she put 100% into her art, she is also a pleasure to have in art class. Unity’s “African Sunset” and a monochromatic painting of a bear will be entered into the VECCA Student Art Show.
When Georgina and her twin sister were very young and the family had just moved from Mexico to America, her mother bought easels, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, and other artist’s tools for the girls to see if they would become interested and would develop this gift. Although both sisters enjoyed art, it was Georgina, explained Mrs. Torres Torres, who soon showed signs of a true gift and a desire to continue. Warm, childhood memories of the easels and time spent coloring and drawing and painting have stayed with Georgina, who is a senior at Central High School.
“When they were growing, I let their creativity flow,” Georgina’s mother said. “They joined all sorts of art programs in school such as choir, orchestra, band, and the school play. They liked to try new things. No matter disability and difference, nothing was going to stop them. They are fearless, brave, and determined girls. They will work really hard to achieve what they want,” said Mrs. Torres-Torres.
Georgina Perez Torres
Central High School
“Art is passion and art is beautiful,” Georgina said. “No matter how different you are, no matter how people see you, you can have comfort in art. I admire my teachers and my friends who are artists. They inspire me.” She believes that her mom, teachers, and friends awakened in her a love for art. Her free time is spent painting and if she has a school project, she will paint for hours and hours on Saturdays.
Georgina’s favorite medium is acrylic paint because she can create texture with this medium which can be thick, or adding medium thinners can water down the heaviness allowing her to have any texture she wants. She loves all colors and cannot chose a favorite “any more than a parent could choose a favorite child.” Georgina likes to paint on wood, canvas, and watercolor paper. She likes to paint anything that inspires her or presents a challenge. Some of her ideas come from the Internet and to these works of art, she will add “her taste, her flair.” Only recently, she has begun to paint portraits.
Georgina has two passions -- art, of course, and taking care of others. She is enrolled in Art V at Central High School and the Nurse Aide program at Triplett Tech. While she would love to go to art school, she will look for a way to combine her passion for art with her compassion for others.
“No matter where you come from,” said Georgina, who wanted to add a comment at the conclusion of the interview, “you are a part of this country. No matter your family situation, your lifestyle, your economic condition, you can have a passion for art and that passion cannot be taken away from you.”
“Georgina has been a joy to have in class,” said Kathy Dill, Georgina’s art teacher at Central High School. “Her creativity and determination drive her in her artwork as well as her everyday life. After knowing her for these four years, and having the privilege of being a small part of her journey, I am so proud to have been here to see her grow as an artist and as an individual. There is no doubt in my mind that Georgina will be an extremely successful at whatever she chooses to do in the future.”
The Shenandoah County PublicSchools
Georgina Perez Torres
on their success at the VSBA Regional Art competition.
The VSBA Regional Art Contest was started in 1989 to promote the artistic talents of Virginia’s public school students. For each of the nine VSBA regions, a winner is chosen for the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The winning art is framed and displayed in the offices of the VSBA in Charlottesville and the Richmond offices of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
For more information about the contest, contact Samantha Giles, VSBA director of meetings and conference, at email@example.com or 434-295-8722, or contact the student winners through the superintendent’s office.
About the Virginia School Boards Association
The Virginia School Boards Association, a voluntary, nonpartisan organization of Virginia school boards, promotes excellence in public education through leadership, advocacy, and services.
VSBA VALLEY REGIONAL ART WINNERS
1st Place Elementary Winner
Cub Run Elementary School, Rockingham County
2nd Place Elementary Winner
Churchville Elementary School, Augusta County
3rd Place Elementary School Winner
Valley Elementary School, Bath County
1st Place Middle School Winner
Milboro, Bath County
2nd Place Middle School Winner
Unity Sky Love Neff
Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, Shenandoah County
Third Place Middle School Winner
Hillyard Middle School, Rockingham County
High School Level
1st Place High School Winner
Rockbridge County High School, Rockbridge County
2nd Place High School Winner
Georgina Perez Torres
Central High School, Shenandoah County
3rd Place High School Winner
Waynesboro High School, Augusta County