PERU — What do two Peruvian high school art students have in common with Andy Warhol, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates and Truman Capote?
They were all winners of the same prize.
Both Kloee Cassel and Marie Klimova were gold medalists at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, an art competition for teens.
Cassel won for his photograph entitled “Floating Carcinogens”. Klimova won for her multimedia piece “Chicken in a Cage.”
The work in mixed media represents a hen made up of eggshells of different colors. Different shades of brown eggshells add depth with the white of the chicken’s tail feathers.
Klimova crushed the eggshells and glued them to each other and to the paper, sometimes piece by piece.
“It was tedious work,” she said.
Small pieces of wood serve as chicken thighs. Sand and earth form the backdrop. The actual thread is placed on top of the piece.
Klimova, who is an exchange student from the Czech Republic, found inspiration thinking about her grandmother’s farm back home.
“I’ve always been close to them,” she said. “I was thinking of trying to do something with a chicken.”
Mike Applegate, a Peruvian high school art teacher, said Klimova beat a lot of other mixed-medium pieces.
“The concept is really good and the aesthetic value is good,” he said. “She went way beyond that.”
Klimova’s foster family helped her collect the eggshells. Cassel joked that Applegate bought a dozen eggs and made a huge omelette just to help Klimova.
“All he did was eat eggs for that reason,” Cassel said. “If we ever need art supplies, Applegate does everything we can.”
Over 100,000 students submitted over 260,000 pieces of art and writing for the 2022 Scholastic Awards.
Of these, 2,600 were shortlisted for a national award. Half goes to writing; the other half is for art. Fewer than 2,000 works of writing and art receive a national medal, which puts Cassel and Klimova in the top 1% of all submissions.
The winners are selected by a jury of professional artists.
“Floating Carcinogens” depicts a student floating in a swimming pool filled with bottle caps and plastic lids.
Cassel submitted the photo as part of a portfolio in her AP art class, taught by Applegate. Each item in the portfolio had to focus on the same topic. The senior from Peru chose the environment, a subject she is passionate about.
“I just wanted to do something that could actually make people see something different and do something that might change their minds,” Cassel told the Kokomo Tribune in a previous interview. “I wanted to use my art to change someone’s mind.”
While art has always been a hobby for Kassel, this year was Klimova’s first time taking an art class since middle school.
“I’m kind of a beginner,” she said.
But art quickly became a passion for Klimova, especially ceramics.
“I had no idea it was such a big passion for me,” she said.
Both students have received several scholarship offers since being named national winners.
Cassel plans to attend Ball State University to study nursing, but intends to take as many art classes as possible.
“I think it will definitely be something that I will follow,” she said.
Klimova will have one more year of high school when she returns to the Czech Republic. She plans to follow her new passion.
“The few months I’ve been here, it definitely became an option for me,” Klimova said.
Peru High School is not new to having Scholastic Award winners. Applegate said it was a testament to a community that cares about the arts, noting Peru Amateur Circus and Cole Porter.
But there is also the administration of community schools in Peru which is ready to invest in the arts department.
“The best thing we have over a lot of other schools is administration,” Applegate said.