Student’s art flies high

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

A Portales Junior High School student who didn’t intend to take an art class has won third place in a national aviation art contest.

The week of Feb. 15, seventh-grader Kristen Wagner received a letter from Gov. Bill Richardson informing her that her drawing of three stunt planes in action placed in her age division.

Her drawing now goes to the International Aviation Association poster contest in Switzerland with judging in the spring.

“I felt so honored and blessed to win third place nationally,” Wagner said.

Wagner placed second in her age division in the state contest, sponsored by the New Mexico Aviation Division. The top three finishers in each of three age divisions for each state go to the national contest.

Wagner’s art teacher, John Birdsong, said students from 22 states entered.

“Kristen is a very on-task young lady,” Birdsong said. “She comes in and puts out 100 percent effort on all the projects that I assign.”

The teacher believes this attention to detail was the reason Wagner won. She is the first of his students to win in a national contest.

Wagner said she signed up for Spanish this school year, but there was no room, so the school put her in an art class.

Birdsong said he normally teaches eighth grade, but Wagner was assigned to his class because of an overflow of students.

Wagner is glad she wound up in the class. With art, she said, she can put whatever she feels like doing on paper and it doesn’t cause stress.

“I think it’s really fun, and hopefully I’ll get better at it,” Wagner said.

She plans to keep pursuing art.

Birdsong said Wagner would receive an award and a framed print of her drawing. The winning drawing in the international contest goes on posters for the world sports flying competitions in Italy later this summer.

Wagner’s parents, Jim and Loretta Wagner, said they were very proud of their daughter.

“She’s quite an artist, and she’s very gifted at more than just art,” Jim Wagner said. “She’s an exceptional person.”