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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 9 months ago

Students shoot for the stars with global competition

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Four students from the Sarasota School of Arts and Science were chosen to have their artwork featured in the 2021 NASA calendar.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

At the top of a test paper or project, students might find a congratulatory sticker from their teacher with a phrase like “Good work” or “Star effort,” but for four Sarasota School of Arts and Science students, the phrase “Out of this world” takes on a whole new meaning.

Four SSAS students had their artwork chosen in a global competition to be featured in the 2021 NASA calendar. There were 1,620 submissions from 34 countries.

Cristal Saavedra-Rivera, Sofia Della Vedova and Gabrielle Helmer were selected to represent the months of January, February and May, respectively. Elizabeth Cole was selected as a runner-up and has her artwork featured on the back of the calendar.

The students were first assigned the competition as an art project and had about a week to prepare their pieces. They could choose from a variety of mediums and space-related topics.

Cristal Saavedra-Rivera created her drawing with colored pencils.

Saavedra-Rivera said her colored pencil piece of an astronaut floating through space took about three days to complete.

“When I do art, it is always a long process, but I enjoy every step of it,” Saavedra-Rivera said. “It took around two to three days of staying up late at night to try to figure out the layout, colors and general idea.”

Eighth grade student Charlotte Taylor won a statewide art competition that brings awareness to radon poisoning held annually through the Florida Department of Health.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Helmer, a self-proclaimed procrastinator, who said she wound up doing most of her drawing in one night. 

She did, however, take several days to think over her concept.

“I wanted to make something that had more depth to it and imagination rather than just straight-up drawing space,” Helmer said. “I looked for some quotes that were space-related, and I found one that said something comparing the solar system to a garden, and I wanted to represent that.”

Gabrielle Helmer created her piece with colored pencil and markers.

Her piece, done in colored pencil and marker, features an astronaut wrapped in vines with the planets growing off them.

The students were encouraged by their art teacher, Brian Hubbard, to create pieces for the categories they thought others wouldn’t.

“I told everyone to think of a unique topic because then maybe they would have better chances,” he said. “I told them that if they think it sounds hard, chances are other people are going to be scared to do it, but they shouldn’t be. They can do anything, and I told them they should go for it.”

Della Vedova took that advice to heart. She focused her marker drawing on the training it takes to become an astronaut. She even left a small surprise in her drawing.

Sofia Della Vedova drew her piece with markers.

“On my sketch, it’s a marker blend, and there’s just a random line on the paper, but I decided to put that in the final drawing because I thought it’d be a cool Easter egg,” Della Vedova said.

Hubbard said he was surprised and proud to see so many of his students receive recognition.

“I was looking through the calendar to see if we got anything, and then I saw we got January and I thought: ‘That is so cool. There’s only 12 chances,’” Hubbard said. “Then I scrolled down and saw we got February, and then I scrolled a little farther, and we got May, too. It was super exciting to see all their work in there.”

When the calendar first came out, it was digital only, so Hubbard had it printed for the three students whose work was shown in the online calendar. However, about a month later, NASA sent Hubbard printed calendars, and there were four packages.

It was then that found out that Cole’s drawing had been chosen, too. As a runner-up, her drawing was featured on the back of the calendar. 

Elizabeth Cole used colored pencils for her drawing of a rocket ship.

When Cole, who created a color pencil drawing of a rocket traveling through space, heard she and several other classmates were selected for the calendar, she was shocked.

“It feels pretty good to win, but it was surprising,” she said. “More than anything, I never really expected for my drawing to win because so many other talented people from my school also submitted art pieces. But I’m so excited for all my classmates who won.”

The students, who are pursuing a career in the arts, will now be recognized March 1 by the Sarasota City Commission for their efforts.

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