WEGO artists take home awards at Upstate Eight Conference show


An untitled work by freshman Angelina Garcia, entered in the mixed media category. (Photo courtesy of Megan Dulkinys)

By Wildcat Chronicle Staff

West Chicago Community High School saw 6 students take home awards at the Upstate Eight Conference Art Show in early March.

The show, which was held virtually this year and last due to COVID concerns, invites students from all 10 schools in the Upstate Eight Conference to submit pieces for consideration. Independent judges selected by the host school evaluate pieces in various categories, ranging from 2-D forms such as drawing, painting, photography, multimedia, and printmaking, to 3-D forms, including ceramic art, jewelry, and sculpture.

Junior AnnaBelle Beaird’s untitled painting took first place at the competition. (Photo courtesy of Megan Dulkinys)

Ten WEGO students entered the show after their projects were carefully considered by art teachers Megan Dulkinys and Dave Exner. Photographs of the actual entries were submitted electronically as a result of the decision to move to a virtual platform, but the conference provided specific instructions as to how each piece would be judged in advance of the show.

“We choose the ones that really stand out as great pieces,” said Dulkinys. “This is one of the best parts of what we do in the art classes! To see students grow as artists, to gain confidence and understanding of an art media, to face struggles and failures, and to still continue and create something they’re proud of in the end is absolutely awesome!”

Four-time Upstate Eight Conference first place winner Bella Wiehle’s drawing. (Photo courtesy of Megan Dulkinys)

This year’s competitors included seniors Sydney Unger (drawing), Rebecca Allison (digital photography), and Jocelyn Arevalo (ceramics), juniors Bella Wiehle (drawing), AnnaBelle Beaird (painting), Melissa Casimiro (painting), Andy Garcia (digital photography), and Leslie Munoz (ceramics), sophomore Mary Jo Turek, and freshman Angelina Garcia.

Junior Leslie Munoz’s smoke-fired vessel took second place in the ceramics division. (Photo courtesy of Megan Dulkinys)

Wiehle and Beaird each took first place in their respective categories.

The year 2022 marked Wiehle’s fourth first-place award at the Upstate Eight Conference Art Show, having medaled in drawing both in 2020 and 2021, and in mixed media with her self-portrait in 2021. Wiehle’s self-portrait, titled “Art Surrounds Us”, went on to win at the Illinois State Board of Education Arts Week competition, and can now be seen on posters in WEGO’s hallways.

This year, Wiehle’s award-winning drawing, a portrait of her late grandfather, Thomas Doyle, was created as a gift for her grandmother, Marsha. Wiehle spent a majority of the semester (28 hours, by her count) working on the piece.

Wiehle said, “My Grandpa was extremely special to me and in his dining room, a half-finished puzzle was always spread out on the table. In his youth, he was a ham radio operator and talked to people around the world, which is pictured in the puzzle he is completing in the drawing. My Grandma jokes that as I display the piece in various galleries, he is making friends with everyone who walks in, as he would quite often when they traveled the world together.”

The portrait, titled “Tom”, has been showcased at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Naperville Arts League, and Gallery 200 in West Chicago.

Beaird, who took first place in painting for her winter landscape, competed in the show for the first time this year. She has been seriously painting and drawing since seventh grade, when she took an art class that “inspired me to take art more seriously,” said Beaird.

Beaird spent about a month working on the award-winning piece, focusing particularly on the shadows and shading. While the piece was mostly painted with watercolors, she used some acrylic paint and pencils to add definition.

“One of my goals for the semester was to try doing a landscape, as I usually paint portraits. I started working on it in during February and I was inspired by all the snow we had,” said Beaird.

Mary Jo Turek’s award-winning ceramics piece, titled Eastern Dragon. (Photo courtesy of Megan Dulkinys)

West Chicago Community High School students also performed well in the ceramics division, in which Munoz took second place, Turek received third place, and Arevalo was awarded an Honorable Mention.

Munoz is in her third year of ceramics at West Chicago Community High School.  Her piece took two weeks to construct before it was smoke fired in the kiln, a process that creates a two-tone finish on the vessel.

“When I found out I won second place I was proud of myself because I knew there [were] other schools with a bunch of other students who had pieces entered into the art show which made me doubt that I would win,” said Munoz. “I was really excited to hear that I had won second place with the piece that was one of my favorite ones to make.”

Turek has been working on ceramics in and out of school for almost a year, but 2022 marked her first time at the Upstate Eight Conference art show. Her Eastern Dragon entry was inspired by the Celadon period, an era in which pottery was glazed in the jade green color known as celadon. The vessel itself took approximately 10 hours to complete.

Turek said, “I love the dimension of creating something with clay, being able to take art and make it 3-D.”

Unger also received an Honorable Mention for her drawing.

Although students do not prepare pieces specifically for the competition, they spend countless hours creating pieces that demonstrate the techniques they have learned through WEGO’s art classes, and their abilities as artists.

Dulkinys said, “They have grown and developed as artists by exploring new materials, by learning and applying new techniques, and by committing the time to learn and practice, and improve their artistic skills by taking classes and applying themselves to the practice of making art.”

For Wiehle, who draws everyday, creating art is not about winning awards or making money, but about making others feel something when they look at a piece. Nonetheless, the recognition is appreciated.

“I know art isn’t as exciting as all of West Chicago’s successful athletics, but it’s extremely important to recognize all fields of talent, not just art, but music, academics, drama, etcetera,” said Wiehle.

Dulkinys hopes students will continue to hone their skills and appreciate art long after they leave the classroom.

“The opportunity to make and create things is such a gift! It not only develops the direct art skill that you’re working on, but it also develops ways to think, to solve problems creatively, to overcome setbacks and think outside of the box, to give an image to something that was only in your thought and make it a reality. These are some of the things that I hope all our art students take with them wherever their lives take them,” said Dulkinys.