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Covington Middle School seventh grader Emily Gadd (left) placed third in this year's Virginia School Boards Association Blue Ridge Region Art Contest. Emily placed third in the middle school category. Mallory Hale, a fourth grader at Callaghan Elementary School, placed first in this year's Virginia School Boards Association Blue Ridge Region Art Contest. Mallory was the first-place winner in the elementary school category. (AHPS Photos)

Two AHPS Students Stand Out in VSBA Regional Art Contest

Low Moor, VA (May 10, 2024) - Works by two Alleghany Highlands Public Schools students placed in this year’s Virginia School Association Blue Ridge Regional Art Contest.

Mallory Hale, a fourth grader at Callaghan Elementary School, captured first place in the Elementary school art category. Emily Gadd, a seventh grader at Covington Middle School, placed third in middle school art entries.

Winners were selected during a VSBA Blue Ridge Regional Forum meeting held recently at the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge. Student art from the elementary, middle, and high school levels represented each school division in the competition. The art was judged by members of school boards from throughout the Blue Ridge Region and visual artists in the community.

The VSBA’s Blue Ridge Region includes 17 school divisions. The region covers the Alleghany Highlands, the Roanoke and New River valleys, and Southside Virginia. First-place winning art is framed and currently displayed in the offices of the VSBA in Charlottesville. For each of the nine VSBA regions, a winner is chosen for the elementary, middle, and high school levels. 

Mallory developed a love of art through her father, Nathan, whose influence has also led to one of her brothers, Maddox, being interested in art. Maddox is a seventh grader at Covington Middle School. Mallory and Maddox often work on art together. Mallory hopes to become an abstract artist. She said she was pleasantly surprised to win the VSBA regional competition.

“I really liked working on [the VSBA piece]. It was fun. It feels really nice to win. I didn’t really think I was going to win anything. It was really nice when I did. I liked it,” Mallory said.

Susan Clonch, Mallory’s art teacher at Callaghan Elementary, describes Mallory’s artwork as “a captivating fusion of two distinct artistic styles.”

She sees Mallory’s work as a blend of the influences of Pablo Picasso and Bisa Butler. Picasso, one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, is known for helping found the Cubist movement. Cubist art employs geometric shapes in depictions of people and other forms.  Butler is an African American fiber artist who has created a new genre of quilts that look like paintings.  

“By blending Pablo Picasso's cubist approach to figures with Bisa Butler's vibrant use of color and intricate patterns in portraiture, Mallory creates a piece that is visually striking and conceptually rich,” Clonch said. 

“Mallory is a remarkable individual with a combination of talent and admirable qualities,” Clonch added. “Her precision and diligence make her stand out in her artistic endeavors, while their thoughtful nature brings depth to their work.”

Gadd placed third in the middle school category for her work titled "Clocktower." It depicts a stone window overlooking a clocktower sitting on a hill. The window has an animal skull and flowers surrounding it. It was completed using Prism color pencils.  

“Emily is very talented — one of the most talented seventh graders I have this year. I have enjoyed seeing her process and what she comes up with as she completes her assignments. She is very sweet, unique, and a joy to have in class,” said Burke Harris, who serves as Emily’s art teacher at CMS.

Emily enjoys exploring different types of styles and working with different media. She has always enjoyed art, and she's been influenced by her older sister and friends. 

Emily is the AHPS spelling bee champion for 2023-2024 and she was also a performer in CMS’s recent musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”

AHPS is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. The school division serves approximately 2,700 students. It was created through the July 21, 2022, merger of Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center.

AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available at www.ahps.k12.va.us.


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