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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Racing the clock: Canyons high school students unleash creativity in four-hour art contest

Feb 29, 2024 01:16PM ● By Julie Slama

Jordan High junior Olivia Hill was surrounded by about 60 other high school artists all busily drawing, painting, sculpting, printmaking and perfecting other art techniques. 

The clock was ticking.

Their mission was to create a piece of work from scratch in four hours. While they could bring in any reference and could explore any medium, there was no theme. Their artwork only had to fit into five categories: fantasy, contemporary, traditional, 3D sculptural and 3D functional.

This is Artstock, Canyons School District’s art competition for students in six high schools: Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon, Diamond Ridge, Jordan and Hillcrest. A Utah Arts Festival juror would judge their pieces and medals given to the top three in each category as well as best of show and Sweepstakes for best school overall. Every student would receive feedback from the art teachers and the students also could vote for a people’s choice award.

It’s a contest that has been around for at least 20 years. 

“Competition brings out the best of us,” Brighton High art teacher Derek Chandler said. “It goes along with Canyons School District’s motto of getting students ready for college and career. This is what artists do. We not only compete with ourselves and try to make a living, whether or not it’s our full-time job, but we create and like to see what others create. This is a good way for students to see all the different spices and varieties, and what’s possible. It advances their own art tremendously. Students are seeing what works, what doesn’t, what others are doing, what’s possible.”

Hill had never participated in an art competition before.

“Just being around other people who like to paint and like art is cool,” she said as she used watercolor on her mermaid painting. “I wanted to do something that had a lot of movement so I thought mermaids and then I thought it would be cool if the mermaid was restrained somehow. I like acrylics but I wanted a challenge so I’m doing watercolor.”

She is enrolled in Advanced Placement Drawing, so she was planning to include this piece of art in her portfolio.

Chandler said that is the point behind not having a theme.

“A lot of these students are AP artists, meaning they submit a portfolio for college credit,” he said. “We wanted to keep the theme open so they could use their artwork from Artstock for that portfolio.”

Jordan High fine arts teacher Collette Baddley said that it’s “an awesome opportunity for them to pursue their interests.”

“My students tell me that it really helps them to learn time and how to pace creating their art,” she said. “They get to see techniques other schools are doing and talk to them about their common interest. I love watching what they come up with; it’s just impressive.”

Nearby, Brighton High’s Corbin Stewart has been doing art ever since he could remember.

At Artstock, he was using dip pens to create a comic art style painting.

“I like the DC Comics art; it’s pretty aesthetic looking,” he said. “I love dip pens and to experiment with textures that they can give me. I prefer how they work compared to other paints because you can do a lot with them.”

The high school junior is looking into architecture as a possible career.

“I thought this would be fun and something I can put on my resume. I can zone out and destress from school. It’s something I enjoy; art has always been a joy for me.”

Nearby Brighton junior Chiara Onwuegbu was using watercolor to create a humorous dog painting.

“I saw this on Pinterest, and I just think it’s funny,” she said. “I think I’m good at drawing animals so I thought I’d do it here. I’m going to put it on my wall of my room. Watercolor works well with this. It’s very forgiving; I can fix things easy. I love the shading that you can do with watercolors.”

Onwuegbu started art lessons in first grade.

“It’s fun, it’s creative, it can make you think, feel and be expressive,” she said. “The best part is finishing. It makes me feel proud at the end, seeing it all come together.”

This year, Alta High won the Sweepstakes, ending Hillcrest High’s two-year winning streak to claim the traveling trophy. Corner Canyon was second and Hillcrest placed third.

Overall individual winners went to Alta’s Blake Carter for best in show and Hillcrest’s Faith Furgeson for people’s choice.

Fantasy category winners were Elizabeth Nelson, Alta, first; Romana Beaver, Jordan, second; and Kripa Thapa, Corner Canyon, third. In contemporary, Mia Bell, Alta, first; Brooklyn Jackson, Corner Canyon, second; and Josilyn Stevens, Jordan, third. In traditional, the winners were Kale Davis, Corner Canyon, first; Annika Amundson, Hillcrest, second; and McKenna Gibbons, Corner Canyon, third. 3-D functional winners were Evan Wolf, Corner Canyon, first; Taylor Allen, Jordan, second; and Ellie Bouck, Hillcrest, third. 3-D sculpture winning students were Kaden Huffman, Alta, first; Kay Allen, Diamond Ridge, second; and Tyler Pullmer, Hillcrest, third.

Honorable mentions went to Brighton’s Ohwnuegbu; Corner Canyon’s Vivian Huh, Alex Jensen, and Sarah Naylor; Diamond Ridge’s Hailey Dyoree; Jordan’s Grace Mahoney and Lynslie Calacino; and Hillcrest’s Cecily Bennett, Cassidy Boykin and Ares Lou. λ