By DAVID SMITH/ecoRI News contributor
WEST GREENWICH, R.I. — There were plenty of winners at the annual Rhode Island Junior Duck Stamp competition, but only one Best of Show honor, which went to Cassidy Argo of Ashaway.
The 15-year-old student from Chariho High School painted a male bufflehead using acrylic paint. Her art teacher is Solace Loven of Lionheart Art Studio School in Carolina.
The other big winner of the day was Olivia Howley, a student at Exeter-West Greenwich High School. She won the Best of Show for Conservation Message. Her art teacher is Elizabeth Lind of EWG. Her art work was titled “Gazing Duck,” and her medium was acrylic paint.
The winners were announced at an awards ceremony March 28 at Exeter-West Greenwich.
Along with top student artists, Lind was honored with the Teacher of the Year Award for her efforts to teach and promote conservation through the duck stamp program.
The competition is open to students statewide in kindergarten through 12th grade. The students are divided into four age groups: K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. The students’ whose art was on display were recognized with honorable mention, first-, second- and third-place awards.
This year there were 673 entries from students in Rhode Island. Those entries were narrowed down to 100 by a panel of artists and members of the state Department of Environmental Management. Even though there is a Best of Show, another panel will now judge all the winning entries to see which student’s art will be sent on to the national competition. The eventual national winner will have his or her artwork made into a stamp.
Across the country, more than 29,000 students have sent in entries.
The program is designed to teach students wetland and waterfowl conservation. The program incorporates scientific and wildlife management principles into a visual arts curriculum. The program began in 1989, but the national art contest was begun in 1993. Revenue from the sale of the $5 Junior Duck stamps supports awards and environmental education.
The national winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship; second place, $500 and third place, $200. The Conservation Message national winner will receive a $200 scholarship.
Rhode Island Best of Show winner Cassidy said she was “stunned” by the honor. She said she has been drawing most of her life.
The contest provides a list of duck species from which the artists can choose. Cassidy said that it took her a while to decide on the bufflehead, but in the end she liked the colors of its feathers. Her second choice was a king eider.
It took the sophomore artist more than a month to complete the painting.
Conservation award winner Olivia painted a harlequin duck in acrylic paint. Last year she was an honorable mention winner. Olivia said that it took about 12 days to complete her painting. Her message was that nature and all of its beauty should be protected.