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Morris High students take third at art conference

Alexis Halcomb works on her next ceramic piece during her ceramic class at Morris Community High School.
Alexis Halcomb works on her next ceramic piece during her ceramic class at Morris Community High School.

MORRIS – Art students at Morris Community High School placed third, missing second place by just one point, in this year’s Northern Illinois Big 12 Art Festival held in Ottawa last weekend.

Art teachers Patti Tesdal and Chris Hankins had the difficult job of narrowing down the talent from their classes to just 10 students who could each present one piece of art to be judged at the show.

“Mrs. Tesdal and I choose the best of what we have up to this point in our classes,” Hankins said. “We are limited to 10 pieces and no student can show more than one. I tell the kids that judging is subjective and they are all winners to have made it to the show.”

The students’ work has to fall into one of the 13 areas featured at the annual show.

Sophomore Connor Andrjeski is in his second year of ceramics, and was chosen as one of the 10 participants for his first competition.

“I think the coil pot I entered was the best thing I’ve done so far,” he said.

The students leave their work in a closed room on tables to be judged while they attend various art-related seminars for nearly two hours.

Upon entering the judging hall after the doors were opened, Andrjeski found that his coil pot was no longer on the table where he left it.

“It wasn’t on the table and I was afraid someone knocked it over or broke it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it had won first place and was moved to the winners table.”

Despite the challenges his pot gave him – he took it from the kiln right before the show – the judges felt it deserved first place.

Kelsey Urbanek, a junior, had a white charcoal still-life drawing chosen to represent the school in the Neutral Drawing category.

“I really liked my drawing, but there were a lot of good artists that entered the show,” Urbanek said. “When I found out I won I didn’t believe it at first. I didn’t expect to win anything.”

Like Andrjeski, she entered the hall to find her drawing missing from its original place as well.

“I freaked out a little bit and then I learned it was put up front,” she said.

Urbanek said she enjoyed creating the drawing and it was different, but not difficult to create. She used white charcoal to draw in the highlights instead of the traditional charcoal drawing, which the artist creates by drawing in the shadows.

Junior Bulmaro Ochoa took home first for his wheel-thrown ceramic turtle teapot.

“I thought I might get second or third, not first,” he said. “I was amazed at winning.”

He said he put a lot of work into his teapot, putting detail into the finished piece.

“I like being able to make all the stuff in ceramics,” he said. “I’ll be taking ceramics again next year as well as art.”

Several of the students said they can see themselves creating artwork long after their high school days are over.

“These artists have worked hard to get to the point where their work is worthy of representing their school,” Hankins said. “They take such great pride in what they create.”

Junior Alexis Halcomb took third place for the dinosaur bank she lovingly calls “Banking on Rex,” a piece that has won her other awards, including Best of Show at Corn Festival last fall.

The bank started as a curved inset jar with lid. She then added legs, a head and a tail to create her final piece.

“I like to make stuff on the wheel and then add things to it,” she said.

In regards to taking third place, she said the group of artists are a team, and like any sports team, there is a best player as well as good players who help win the game. She said she’s proud her third-place finish gave the team the points to take third overall in their division.

Senior Skylar Easson also won first place for her mosaic piece.

“For several of them, this was their fourth competition this year with two more to go. They have been very successful taking top honors at Joliet Junior College, University of St. Francis, Corn Festival and now NIB12 Conference,” Hankins said. “It is a testament to their talents and a very positive statement about the teaching skills of Mrs. Tesdal as the high school loses her due to reduction in force.”


MCHS Artists who competed in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Art Festival

Hailey Hoagland - Painting - oil

Meghan Miller - Drawing- neutral charcoal

Skylar Easson- Other crafts- mosaic

Anna Valentine- Ceramics- hand built

Bulmaro Ochoa- Ceramics- wheel thrown

Connor Andrjeski- Ceramics- hand built

Tyler Pletsch - Ceramics - wheel thrown

Alexis Halcomb - Ceramics - wheel thrown

Rebecca McKee - Ceramics - hand built

Kelsey Urbanek - Drawing - neutral charcoal

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