Mint Hill Arts’ Ninth Annual Student Art Show

Friday's opening reception drew a large crowd to Mint Hill Arts. Student works will be on display through March 23.
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Mint Hill Arts is currently hosting its ninth annual student art show featuring two- and three-dimensional artwork from nearly 200 student artists.

The show began with a reception for students, family and friends at Mint Hill Arts from 6:30-8:30 pm on Friday, March 3rd.

All public, private or homeschooled high school students in grades 10-12 were eligible to enter up to two pieces of art in the judged competition. The competition drew 192 entries – the largest number to date – from 13 different area high schools: Independence, Northside Christian Academy, Charlotte Catholic, Piedmont, United Faith Christian Academy, Sun Valley, Covenant Day School, Queen’s Grant, Butler, Providence, Weddington, Porter Ridge and Rocky River. Prizes for the judged competition were provided by Robinson Orthodontics.

First prize was awarded to Butler High School twelfth grader Jessica Jang for her watercolor self-portrait “Unwinding.” “I drew it because one of the things I was focusing on this year was anxiety,” says Jang. “I describe my own anxiety like knots, and this was a way for me to put it down on paper.” Jang enjoyed the challenge of working with multiple colors to create the complex skin tones in her own face.

Twelfth grade Butler High School student Jessica Jang won first prize for her watercolor self-portrait “Unwinding.”

Judge Greg Barnes was impressed by the superior execution of Jang’s portrait. “I’ve tried to do watercolor portraits,” says Barnes, who received a BFA from Wake Forest University in 1985 and has pursued a fine art career full time, including portraiture, since 2001. “I’ve done OK, but I’ve never been able to capture a face that well. I know how difficult it is, and it’s just wonderfully rendered.”

Covenant Day School twelfth grader Leah Ertel won second place for her work “Peace.” Ertel’s charcoal drawing was inspired by a trip that she took to the Dominican Republic last summer. “I was in an intern at an international school called Freedom International Ministries,” says Ertel. “These are some of the kids I met in the preschool class I was teaching.”

Twelfth grade Covenant Day School student Leah Ertel won second prize for her charcoal drawing “Peace.”

“This one is about feeling for me,” said Barnes. “The smiles on those kids faces just jumped out at me.” Barnes was also impressed by Ertel’s technique rendering realistic skin tones and her choice to forego any background. “The negative space, it takes you right to them,” said Barnes.

Piedmont twelfth grader Sydney Widenhouse was awarded third place for her acrylic piece “Junk Drawer,” a realistic depiction of what a paintbrush drawer looks like at Piedmont High School. “I’m just trying to teach kids it doesn’t have to be fantastical and have tons of meaning, just well done,” said Sydney’s art teacher, Ms. Price. “Here’s a great example of something that’s common everyday objects, and she did a fabulous job painting.” Barnes agrees that the “the boldness of the choice” is a large part of what drew him to Widenhouse’s piece.

Twelfth grade student Sydney Widenhouse from Piedmont High School took home third prize for her acrylic piece “Junk Drawer.”

In addition to the top prizes, four honorable mentions were awarded: Piedmont twelfth grader Natalie Carswell for her clay sculpture “Purity,” Providence twelfth grader Jamie Ku for his pastel drawing “Lydia,” Providence eleventh grader Rei Pennington for his acrylic piece “Seamus,” and Porter Ridge twelfth grader Courtney Wilson for her graphite drawing “Accomplished.”

Twelfth grade Piedmont High School student Natalie Carswell (pictured with her art teacher Ms. Medford) won an honorable mention for her clay sculpture “Purity.” Carswell’s was the only three- dimensional piece to win a prize.
Twelfth grader Courtney Wilson from Porter Ridge High School (pictured with her art teacher Ms. Kerley) took home an honorable mention for her graphite drawing “Accomplished.”

Choosing only three winners and four honorable mentions from 192 outstanding student works wasn’t an easy task for Barnes. “There are probably a dozen pieces in here that could have gotten the top prize,” he admits. “It just came down to the execution and this gut feeling.”

The ninth annual student art show also included a display of unjudged artwork by elementary and middle school students. Any student in grades K-8 was able to enter one piece of two- or three-dimensional artwork in the unjudged show. The K-8 show drew work mainly from local elementary and middle schools.

Bain Elementary first grader Ayoub Moudarrir proudly displayed his oil pastel and paint piece “Hot Mint Chocolate.”

Student artwork will be on display at Mint Hill Arts, located 11205 Lawyers Road, through March 23.

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: