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Annual Art Contest: Every Picture Tells a Story

Giselle Wiley proudly points to her art project, “The Singing Snowman.”

Eight-year-old Giselle Wiley proudly points out that her latest art project, “The Singing Snowman” tells a simple story about a Puerto Rican snowman who loves to belt out his favorite Christmas tune.

“Most snowmen don’t have a culture and I wanted to base him off mine,” said the precocious second-grader representing Johnathan Jennings School 109 at the annual Holiday Art Contest sponsored by Indianapolis Public Schools. “He just ate some snickerdoodles, and is wearing his Puerto Rican hat.

“I made him singing a Christmas song,’ Feliz Navidad,’(a Christmas song written in 1970 by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano) because Puerto Ricans love to put their voice and soul into songs.”

The project won a third-place award in the elementary school division in the annual art show at Broad Ripple High School on Tuesday (Dec. 7).

The youngster was accompanied by her proud parents, who mingled with dozens of families from throughout the district during the annual event.

“Someday I want to be a (professional) artist,” Wiley said. “I don’t do it for any of the awards. I do it for myself. I do art because I want to show people who I am. Someday, I want to make the world better with my art.”

Jenn Day, who teaches at the Center for Inquiry School 27, believes that participating in art classes allows students like Giselle to flourish.

“Art is often the only way for some students to feel successful in school,” said Day, who attended Herron School of Art and Design and dreamed about being an art teacher since sixth grade. “It may the only positive thing they hear all day.”

Arts education is a tradition for IPS and its dedicated art teachers. For more than three decades, the annual Holiday Art Contest has existed in one form or another. 

The current contest evolved from a fundraiser for the arts programs in which community partners printed the winning art on holiday cards and sold them at Indianapolis area banks. Funds were then directed to IPS high schools for supplies and support of students as they pursued their passions. The holiday cards are no longer created, but the contest lives on.

“It is important for the development of the whole child to promote and highlight the talent and craftsmanship of our students and the guidance of our great fine arts teachers,” said David Newman, the district’s fine arts instructional coach.

“These students have been rewarded socially and emotionally with pride in a job well done and our other participants, while not winners, created wonderful and unique works of art and should feel proud of their participation and accomplishment.”

2021 Art Show Winners

(Students are listed by name, school, grade, and art teacher.)

Elementary School Division

  • 1st place: Dalia Medina, Johnathan Jennings School 109, Grade 5, Raka Kingsland.
  • 2nd place: Christian Holmes, ROOTS, Grade 4, Cierra Means.
  • 3rd place: Giselle Wiley, Johnathan Jennings School 109, Grade 2, Raka Kingsland.
  • Honorable Mention: Carder Medlock, Christian Park School 82, Grade 4, Heather Boelke.
  • Honorable Mention: Rocky Bayne, Christian Park School 82, Grade 1, Heather Boelke.
  • Honorable Mention: Dylan Alaya, Ernie Pyle School 90, Grade 3, Leticia Alvarez.
  • Honorable Mention: Asiya Coley, Robert Frost School 106, Grade 4, Emma Said.
  • Honorable Mention: Michelle Rodriguez, Johnathan Jennings School 109, Grade 4, Raka Kingsland.

Middle School Division

  • 1st place: Iris Anderson, CFI School #27, Grade 8, Jenn Day.
  • 2nd place: Kensey Walden, Johnathan Jennings School 109, Grade 6, Raka Kingsland.
  • 3rd place: JaKayla Bradley, Clarence Farrington School 61, Grade 6, Mary Ann Shoot.
  • Honorable Mention: Geneis Bradley and Stephanie Mejia, Clarence Farrington School 61, Grade 6, Mary Ann Shoot.
  • Honorable Mention: Beverly Ramirez-Morales, Grade 8, Longfellow Middle School.
  • Honorable Mention: Aaliyah Magallanes, RWE School 58, Grade 6, Ryan Matthews.

High School Division

(Note: Shortridge was the only high school to submit projects)

  • 1st place: Natalie Castaneda, Shortridge HS, Grade 11, Manada Cory.
  • 2nd place: Katie Torres, Shortridge HS, Grade 11, Manada Cory.
  • 3rd place: Wandra Martinez, Shortridge HS, Grade 11, Manada Cory.
  • Honorable Mention: Jazzy Christenson, Shortridge HS, Grade 11, Manada Cory.
  • Honorable Mention: Alice Pickett, Shortridge HS, Grade 11, Manada Cory.
  • Honorable Mention: Ella McElroy, Shortridge HS, Grade 11, Manada Cory.