For the 10th consecutive year, colorful expressions of faith were on display at The Tablet’s annual Keep Christ in Christmas Art Contest award ceremony Jan. 25. Out of the nearly 1,000 student-entries, only 11 winners were selected to celebrate their creative achievements at the Archbishop John Hughes Knights of Columbus Council, Dyker Heights.
Young artists, ranging from elementary to high school students, were asked for their interpretation on the theme “Keeping Christ in Christmas.”
Taking first place in the high school division for the second year in a row was an artist from Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst. Annebelle Phanor used small brushes, watercolors and spray paint that took her six hours to finish. Her winning piece depicted Christmas trees aligning the streets and a majestic angel overlooking the quiet night before the birth of Christ.
“You should always keep Jesus in mind because Jesus is the reason for the season,” said Phanor, a sophomore at Bishop Kearney H.S. “We should always think about Christ wherever we go.”
Both the second- and third-place winners were from St. Agnes Academic H.S., College Point.
Describing her two students, art teacher Margaret Heinemann said they basically did it on their own with little advice from her.
“I can’t tell you how blessed I am to have such talented students, said Heinemann, “it makes my job easy and more exciting.”
One of her students, Emma Kegel, is waiting to hear back from art schools she applied to for her first year in college. The senior AP art student’s winning piece used hues of light and dark blues with thin strokes of white marker on black paper in order to highlight the beauty of Jesus’s mother.
“I really got inspiration about Mary and her whole story and how she loved Jesus so much and she wanted to bring him into the world and she put her trust in God,” said Kegel, the second-place winner. “So I wanted to use that relationship and sort of show the relationship as well between Christmas and the birth of Jesus.”
For the first-grade category, Erica Niedermeyer also decided to draw a picture that included the Holy Family and highlighted the dark, starry night in the manger for Baby Jesus. Her reason? It was as simple as just thinking about the theme and drawing it in what she said only took ‘maybe a few seconds.’
“It’s loving Jesus and giving Jesus a lot of joy when he was born,” said Niedermeyer, from Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy, Douglaston.
Parents, family members and faculty from eight schools around the diocese witnessed a celebration that included praise from the Knights of Columbus at Archbishop John Hughes Council. Grand Knight Agostino Iallonardo gave each winner a medal, monetary prize and certificates of appreciation. Winners also went home with a certificate of acknowledgement from Congressman Dan Donovan’s and State Senator Marty Golden’s office.
Even though it was a night for the gifted students, the parents and teachers were also just as ecstatic for their young artists in training.
For Erica’s mother, Daniela Niedermeyer, after seeing the art contest advertisement in The Tablet, she secretly submitted her daughter’s picture without her knowing.
“I said, ‘don’t worry, it’s just a contest,” said Niedermeyer, “and low and behold, she won. I mean we’re over the moon.”
Picking the winners from hundreds of unique submissions was a challenging task for The Tablet staff. It included voting on greeting cards larger than the size of a computer screen, three-dimensional Nativity scenes made from wood and postcards that could pass for a future Picasso. But after hours of careful deliberation, judges considered artistic ability, originality and sticking to the theme.
Leana Longhitano, the second-grade winner from St. Sebastian Catholic Academy, Woodside, said she was able to keep Christ in Christmas because after thinking about Jesus and praying to him, she believes He helped her.
Congratulations to the winners!
First grade, Erica Niedermeyer, Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy, Douglaston
Second grade, Leana Longhitano, St. Sebastian Catholic Academy, Woodside
Third grade, Anastasia Chabanov, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy, Gravesend
Fourth grade, Matias Emery, Holy Angels Catholic Academy, Bay Ridge
Fifth grade, Madison Simoné Gonzalez, Holy Angels Catholic Academy
Sixth grade, Isabella Herrera, St. Matthias School, Ridgewood
Seventh grade, Carina Alessandro, St. Bernadette Catholic Academy, Dyker Heights
Eighth grade, Julianna Apodiacos, St. Bernadette Catholic Academy
High School: First place, Annebelle Phanor, Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst
Second place, Emma Kegel, St. Agnes Academic, College Point
Third place, Lily Fitzpatrick, St. Agnes Academic
(Photos: Marie Elena Giossi)