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Family trip inspires winning entry in art competition

Top entries in the annual Sister Cities Young Artist Showcase were created by Colby Boek (left), Anna Busch, Evie Trulen and Justin Cunningham, whose painting advances to international competition in April.

Original artwork by Red Wing High School students examined the theme "Your World" for the 2010 You Artist Showcase sponsored by the Red Wing Sister Cities organization.

Justin Cunningham captured first place and a $50 award with "St. Augustine," a creation inspired by a family trip.

Intent of the theme, according to spokeswoman Bert Madtson, was to give the students an opportunity to answer "What makes you, you?" Cunningham's written explanation accompanying his artwork was right on target, Madtson said.

She and Jim Grantman, who's also with the local Sister Cities group, met with 20 students in Peg Hansen's art class at the high school in November to talk about the competition. Grantman led a discussion on the theme.

"International travel and cultural exchanges can impact your life in many different ways," Madtson said. "Students were asked to describe vividly and specifically how cultures and experiences have impacted their ideas and perspective of the world."

The resulting art works were displayed in front of the eagle fountain at the school in early January. All art students had a chance to vote for their favorite piece, and local artists Dan Wiemer and Peggy Simonson judged the entries.

Cunningham's written statement explained his inspiration.

"I was brainstorming ideas in my room and I looked up and saw pictures on my bulletin board from a trip our family had taken," he said. "Before that point, I had had trouble thinking of things that influenced me and who I was.

"I thought places were just places I had gone, but I realized that I've become who I am after I experienced them."

Second place and $30 went to Anna Busch; third place and $20 went to Evie Trulen. Bryan Wadley's artwork got the People's Choice Award.

This year, the judges also awarded honorable mention to Colby Boek.

"They felt the artwork was really good and he had followed the theme, but he didn't write about it," Madtson said. Talking about the inspiration is an important part of the entry.

In addition, the group received 52 pieces from Quzhou, Red Wing's sister city in China. The winner in that group was He Xinyue. No entries have been received yet from the Japanese sister city, Ikata, Madtson said.

The two first-place entries will be forwarded to Sister Cities International for its competition in April.

First, however, the top five Red Wing entries and the winning Chinese work will be on at the Sheldon Theatre Feb. 26 for the three-day Sister Cities Cultural Film Festival. Some additional Chinese student paintings will be displayed; some will be for sale, Madtson said.

Red Wing student artists have been named international winners several times since 1999, when the local group began participating in the competition, Madtson said - including last year's local winner, Danny Bell, and an Ikata student entry.

"We really have a pretty good record" at that level, Madtson said, noting that the international contest gets 70 to 80 entries each year. Red Wing students won the competition four times and also had an honorable mention. Quzhou students have three wins, plus the Ikata winner.

The top two paintings at the international level receive cash awards. An additional eight honorable mention paintings are selected, and those 10 are sent on an international tour.