Four exceptional young artists from J. Taylor Finley Middle School impressed the judges at the town’s 19th annual Tulip Festival art contest, which is coordinated by the Huntington Arts Council.
Seventh grader Sam Nicotra and eighth graders Emily Gershuny, Talia Addeo and Jackie Gonzalez claimed awards at the recent ceremony. The Tulip Festival itself is held in Heckscher Park and this year’s crowd was again treated to a spectacular array of colors.
Finley art teacher Dena Mortell was thrilled to discuss her remarkable young artists, as well as many of her other students who also submitted colorful pieces for the contest.
The contest is open to all students in grades 3-8 attending school in the town. “This year’s theme was ‘Celebrating 100 Years of Spring in Huntington’s Heckscher Park,’” Ms. Mortell said. Contest participants were encouraged to independently interpret the theme and create personal reflections of spring time in Huntington.
The Carolyn Fostel Best in Show Award went to Ms. Gershuny, who developed a breathtaking piece of art. “I really tried my best this year to create a picture that celebrated the new theme and show improvement of my art skills better than the project I submitted last year when I won the Best in Seventh Grade Award,” she said. “I am really excited and honored to have been chosen this year for this prestigious award.”
Ms. Fostel was instrumental in planning and securing sponsorship support of the initial Huntington Tulip Festival in 2001 and continued to be active in these capacities on the festival committee until she passed away in 2011. Ms. Gershuny was presented with a $50 gift card courtesy of NEFCU.
Ms. Addeo took the Best in Eighth Grade Award. “I was really nervous and hopeful I’d do well, because of my unique spin on the theme,” she said. “I drew a horse drawn carriage filled with tulips to symbolize the old style of transportation, in front of the current day museum. Kind of like merging the old with the new and celebrating 100 years.”
Mr. Nicotra garnered the Best in Seventh Grade Award. “I chose to create minimalist approach with both color and contrast in my artwork,” he said. “In staying with the theme of the contest, I wanted to show different generations enjoying the tulips and the Heckscher Museum.”
Ms. Gonzalez is this year’s eighth grade honorable mention award recipient. “I couldn’t believe that I won an award with so many school districts entered, including Cold Spring Harbor, Northport, Elwood and even private schools in the contest,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “The reception was a lot of fun and my entire family came to see all the artwork.”
The award recipients were selected by a jury of artists and professionals. The students were presented with their prizes at the Huntington Arts Council reception at the Heckscher Museum on Friday. Their artwork remained on display at the museum through the Tulip Festival’s conclusion this past Sunday.
“There was a substantial increase in entries this year with many more school districts entering the contest, so it was more competitive than in the past and the judges really took their time in choosing the winners,” said Gina Van Bell, the arts in education coordinator for the Huntington Arts Council.
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Ms. Mortell has been a Huntington art teacher since 2013. The Finley art club’s faculty advisor, she obtained an undergraduate degree in graphic design at New York Institute of Technology and a Master of Science degree in art education at LIU-C.W Post. She graduated with a 4.0 average.
Ms. Mortell has taught digital photography and cartooning at the USDAN Center for Creative and Performing Arts and in Huntington’s summer arts enrichment program.