From the Fairfield Ledger -- By Andy Hallman --
Greg Thatcher could not be prouder of his art students.
Thatcher teaches art at Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, which has a long history of winning awards at the highest levels of competition. Earlier this spring, Maharishi School entered 15 pieces in the Southeast Iowa Superconference competition. Of those, eight won awards.
Pioneer students were especially strong in the field of photography, capturing first and second place as well as two honorable mentions. Amanda Valentine won gold while Ellie Mason took home silver. Loreena Hansen and Alina Knight received honorable mentions.
Valentine was one of three Maharishi School students to win first place at the competition. Zhe Zhang placed first in the drawing category, and Crissy Corazza earned a blue ribbon in the judges’ category. Chandre Morales finished second in sculpture and Rain Spotted Elk received an honorable mention in the judges’ category.
Thatcher said he was very pleased with his students’ pieces this year and was glad to see them rewarded for their efforts. Success is nothing new for the Maharishi School art program. Thatcher is chair of the art department and has taught at the school since 1985. His stewardship of the program has yielded an impressive trophy collection. In the past 30 years, Pioneer artists have earned more than 600 awards at state, national and international competitions.
The school fielded so many photography entries in part because Thatcher had just taught a class on photography prior to the competition, and the students submitted to the competition the photos they had taken for the class. The students in Thatcher’s classes take their work very seriously, and with good reason. Thatcher said he expects excellence of his students. He offers a class called “Portfolio Prep” for students thinking of studying art in college. Those students come in everyday for 45 minutes and typically spend an additional two hours working on their pieces over the weekend.
Pioneer students routinely compete in the annual Congressional Art Competition, which has been held every year since 1982. This year was the first year the competition was open for popular vote, which ended Friday. Thirteen of Thatcher’s students submitted art for the competition. They were Giovanni Cingire, Corazza, Valentine, Aime Saine, Mason, Hanson, Yifan Liu, Yize Li, Caleb Mulleneux, Spotted Elk, Alina Knight, Jivani Rodriguez and Zhang.
“We’ve done well at the Congressional Art Competition in the past,” Thatcher said. “The winner gets a trip to Washington, D.C. to see their art installed in the congressional tunnel.”
According to a press release from U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack, his office received 167 entries from 13 schools in 10 counties in his district. More than 2,500 votes were cast in Loebsack’s district, which was won by Brianna Paup, a junior at North Cedar High School in Stanwood, Loebsack reported today.
When it comes time for the students to pick which photos they’re going to send to competition, Thatcher asks them to submit 20. After discussing the merits of each photo with the student and the class, everyone comes to a consensus on which of the 20 photos should be submitted to contest.
“I want them to take photos with depth, the kind of depth we see in real life,” he said.
Thatcher said he is instilling in the students design skills that are not limited to setting up photos or molding sculptures.
“The principles of design are tools the students can apply to music, motion pictures and even to a business,” he said.