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CVU artists win statewide awards, cash

painting of a red eft on a sun dappled forest floor

“Jewel of the Forest” by ninth-grader Shakeh Hagopian.

Champlain Valley Union High School ninth-grader Shakeh Hagopian won first place and $1,000 in the Vermont Wildlife Education Fund’s statewide “Give Wildlife a Voice” student art contest, it was announced last week.

CVU tenth-grader Aren Eisenman won third place and $500. 

Their work will be displayed along with the work of 30 other student-artists who entered the contest at the Vermont Statehouse after the start of the legislative session in January. 

The contest is meant to celebrate Vermont’s wildlife species and give students an incentive to hone their art skills. 

“With the increase in online learning keeping young people tied to their screens even more than usual, our board thought it was important to take a step back from the digital world and celebrate the richness and diversity of wildlife in Vermont,” said Claudia Mucklow, a Vermont Wildlife Coalition board member.

Three acclaimed wildlife artists — Rob Mullen, Adelaide Tyrol and John Pitcher — served as judges. Entries were judged on a combination of composition, technical skill, creativity, originality, story and unique focus on Vermont wildlife and wildlife habitat. 

Hagopian’s depiction of a red eft is titled “Jewel of the Forest.”

“The red eft played a huge role in my childhood. Its magnificent orange hue, its luminous transparent skin and its large glassy eyes were and are a magical jewel in the forests of Vermont,” Hagopian wrote of the painting.

Winning artwork by CVU tenth-grader Aren Eisenman.

Eisenman’s painting is of a rabbit sitting on a Vermont road.

“While driving home from babysitting, I narrowly avoided hitting a small rabbit,” Eisenman explained. “I was surprised but not too worried about it. Later in that same drive, another bunny leaped in front of the car and froze. I slowed down but it was too late and I heard a thud and felt a small impact. I brought the car to a stop, got out and checked for the bunny. I did not see it, but I am pretty sure it did not survive the incident. I made this drawing to honor and remember that innocent bunny.”

Mullen, one of the judges, congratulated the students for “a job well done.”

“The future of wildlife art is in good hands in Vermont,” he said. “I hope many people will get to see these wonderful pieces that our talented young artists have created. I wish we could have selected more. As an artist myself, who has been involved in many art competitions, I want to tell all the students who submitted to keep at it. Just keep creating and developing your own unique art.”