Students soar ahead in competition

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Portales students zoomed past the competition in a recent state aviation art poster contest.

One James Elementary School student and four Portales Junior High School students scored among the top three places in their age categories at the state level of the 2010 International Aviation Art Contest earlier this year. They have advanced to the national level.

In the state contest, 160 participants competed in three age divisions, PJHS art teacher Jon Birdsong said. The theme was “Flying with the Sun,” focusing on solar-powered aircraft and motorless flight.

James Elementary student Nolan Riggin, 8, won first place in the 6- to 9-year-old division for the second year in a row.

In the 10- to 13-year-old category, Cindy Zaldana, now 14, took first and Henry Pollock, 13, placed second. Anissia Lucero, 14, won first in the 14- 17-year-old division, and Vanessa Chavez, 15, came in third.

“I was really excited because I worked really hard, and it felt good being appreciated for what I did,” Zaldana said of her feelings when she learned she won.

Zaldana’s picture featured a paper airplane crashing into a tropical island.

“Everybody was doing things that had to do with machinery, so I thought a paper airplane would be really simple, and I just added some details to it, and it came out really good,” she said.

Pollock drew a hot air balloon in crayon because he likes that aircraft. He said he wasn’t interested in entering the contest at first, but Birdsong helped him and the picture began looking nice.

Then Birdsong convinced Pollock to enter.

Lucero said she chose to depict a paraglider because most people were drawing hot air balloons and a paraglider was simple. She likes bright colors, so she painted a sunset in the background.

“I didn’t think it was going to come out great because I’d never done something big before,” she said.

Chavez created a picture of windows looking out on a desert scene, an idea she found on the Internet and adapted according to Birdsong’s suggestion. With little experience in art, she hadn’t expected the piece to turn out well.

Nonetheless, she won her first art contest and was excited.

Riggin, who competed with a picture of a solar-powered plane, declined to be interviewed. Birdsong, his grandfather, said the boy was on-task with the project and a good artist.

The students’ art work was scheduled to be judged at the national level this week in Washington, D.C., but Birdsong expected the blizzard had delayed the process. A piece that places in the top three in Washington goes on to the international contest in Switzerland.

Birdsong sent 15 entries from among his classes to the contest.

“I enter kids in art contests because I believe kids learn from both winning and losing,” he said, adding that they also learn from seeing what others do.

In a day of bad budgets, Birdsong said, letting people know that youth excel in art helps keep programs in place.