Grade-schoolers interpret Ivins night sky through art contest

Cropped image of artwork by Acelin Smith, eighth grade, in contest for the best interpretation of the night sky in Ivins. See photo gallery for full image. Ivins, Utah, Feb. 13, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Mike Scott, Ivins Night Sky Initiative, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Students in Ivins participated in a painting contest in which they used their creativity to capture something they cherish dearly – the night sky.

The Ivins Night Sky Initiative announced this week that Juniper McCowan, a eighth-grader at Vista School, won first place in the competition for best interpretation of the night sky over Ivins, according to a press release from organizers of the initiative. Her painting celebrates the beauty and wonderment of the night sky that Ivins residents can still enjoy.

“This is a solid composition with an imaginative and logical interpretation of the night sky,” the judge said of McGowan’s painting. “The painting is well crafted and unified with a nice handling of art material. Strong contrast draws the viewer in.”

Fellow eighth-graders Faith Olson and Acelin Smith won second and third place, respectively. Merit awards went to Emmalani Gent, a sixth-grade student and Orion Hansen, an eighth-grader.

Patty Dupre, co-founder of the Ivins initiative, said this was much more than just an art competition because the organization will feature the winning artwork in its “mission to to improve, preserve, and protect the night sky over Ivins and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and to serve as a resource for City officials, residents, and businesses.”

Juniper McCowan, an eighth grade student at Vista School, with her painting that won first place in an art contest for the best interpretation of the night sky in Ivins, Utah, Feb. 13, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Mike Scott, Ivins Night Sky Initiative, St. George News

“Through their art, these students will remind all of us about the wonder and enchantment of the night sky and why it is so important to preserve this amazing asset,” Dupre said.

Nearly 80 percent of North Americans cannot see the Milky Way due to light pollution, the press release said.

The students’ art was judged by Steven Stradley, the visual arts instructor at Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts. He is a professional artist and maintains an active studio. He is also represented at A Gallery Fine Art in Salt Lake City and exhibits nationally.

Ivins Mayor Chris Hart thanked “these talented students for helping us spread the message that the dark night sky is a cherished feature in Ivins City.”

“We’ve gone to great lengths to preserve it and the Initiative’s effort to achieve designation is one I support wholeheartedly,” he said.

Stradley explained why the challenge of this competition was different and interesting: “Art has the great capacity to engage interdisciplinary thought. This contest got students to engage with the night sky, through art. This engages a sense of wonder, environmental and social responsibility, and a connection that bridges the cosmos and our humanity.”

Eva Lorentzen, an artist and visual arts teacher at Vista School, said she expects this contest will stimulate students’ long-term interest in the night sky and encourage them to think about ways to protect this valuable and fragile resource from light pollution so future generations can look up and experience the same sense of wonder that we can today.

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