Oakfield-Alabama Elementary School art teacher Leah Peca has uploaded what she estimates to be thousands of kids’ artworks over the years to a website that conducts a routine evaluation and selection process for an online contest.
Out of all those entries, there have been many creative works, but never one chosen for Artsonia’s Artist of the Week voting competition, Peca said. That was until this year, when Artsonia’s panel selected Kempton Benjamin’s golden glowy moon over a pumpkin patch. Even better yet, the painting reaped 800 online votes and captured first place for an Artist of the Week spot in his age group.
“I was thrilled. I was jumping up and down, I thought I was crazy when I got the email,” Peca said during an interview Wednesday with The Batavian. “I was just so happy for him. It's very cool, because we're a very big sports community. Athletes are constantly always being recognized, which is great, but it's very nice to see some of these other kids get recognized for their own unique talents that are outside of sports."
The voting competition on Artsonia.com is promoted to be part of the world's largest collection of student art portfolios, exhibiting more than 100 million pieces of student art.
Artsonia developed Artist of the Week 15 years ago to encourage teachers to submit student artwork and engage the school and community to vote on and recognize students for their creative achievements, its founders state. Every week, Artsonia selects 12 random submissions in each of four different age groups (PreK-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12) from artwork submitted the previous week. Voting is open to the public for several days before the winner is announced.
Peca is one of the thousands of art teachers who uses Artsonia to showcase her students' art, manage the art room, crowdsource lesson plans, and fundraise for her classroom. Artsonia lets family and friends of student artists create and purchase custom keepsakes from the student art and then gives back 20 percent of all revenue to the local art classroom.
“Artsonia is huge in my art room. I love having portfolios of art for my students and my own children that date back to their very first days of school,” Peca said. “The kids also love the nostalgia of scrolling through their online portfolios and remembering their experiences with each project.”
Kempton, who enjoys painting nature and especially animals, was happy when his mom Malorie shared the news that he had won.
“I was excited. I was surprised,” the eight-year-old said. “I used oil pastels. I remembered going to the pumpkin patch, there were three pumpkins; I was recreating that. The harvest moon, it was golden.”
His mom said that he loves to paint and do various crafts, including working with clay. She received the congratulatory email earlier this month. Kempton received a plaque and a gift card for art supplies. He went home and ordered supplies right away, she said.
His list of goodies included pompom puppies, two bags of clay, and a craft kit to make his own kaleidoscope.
“I'm so proud of him. He really loves art,” she said. “Any time your child gets recognized for something they enjoy or are passionate about, that's an exciting thing. He was really proud, we’re really excited for him. That was a cool recognition and awesome that he got to have other people see his cool, great work that we're always talking about.”
The online site allows families to view their child’s artwork and order items with the piece incorporated. Kempton’s grandma has already ordered a moon over pumpkin patch mug, and other family members will be ordering other items, his mom said.
Peca has been teaching art for more than 15 years and said that she loves being around kids who are excited to try new things and realize their potential.
“Everybody is excited to come to art class, and that joy is contagious,” she said. “And Kempton has always had such an aptitude for art, but he works so hard at it too. Whenever he finishes something, he's always asking how he can improve it or what he can do to make it better.
“He never just finishes it in terms of it,” she said. “And he always just keeps working on it. And it's so awesome.”
He spent two 40-minute classes using bright green and orange oils, purples, lavender, shades of periwinkle and sky blues, and brilliant white and yellow for the moon that’s casting a bit of glow onto the round orange pumpkins on the grass below.
To view works on the site, go to artsonia.com.