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Hawthorne, Gonzalez awarded Best of Division for county fair art pieces

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The San Diego County Fair's Student Showcase and Best of Pre-K-6th Grade exhibits include fine art, and two Sullivan Middle School students received Best of Division honors for their pieces.

Eighth-grader Paige Hawthorne received Best of Division for two-dimensional collage projects as well as Best of Class for middle school students entering two-dimensional collage pieces. The project submitted by sixth-grader Isla Gonzales was given Best of Division for three-dimensional upcycled materials as well as Best of Class for middle school students entering a creation with at least 80% formerly used as something else.

"It's a lot of work, but this is the payoff," Sullivan art teacher Melissa Ledri said.

During the 2022 summer break, Hawthorne and her family went to Italy including Venice.

"She had all these photos, and she wanted to put them into artwork," Ledri said.

The photos themselves weren't cut up to create the collage, instead Hawthorne made a drawing based on the photos and she cut up pages from magazines to recreate the photos.

"It was very time-consuming," Ledri said.

Gonzalez crocheted a handbag from old grocery bags.

"She really likes to crochet," Ledri said.

This year, Ledri had 101 students submit artwork for the Student Showcase or Best of Pre-K-6th Grade.

"It was exciting," she said. "It's a lot of work to enter artwork into the fair, but it's really important for students."

Ledri was raised in Vista and entered the county fair's Student Showcase when she was a student at Vista High School. Her portrait drawing won a ribbon at the county fair.

"I still remember that," she said. "It was kind of like a highlight for me."

She began teaching at Sullivan Middle School in 2001 and became the school's art teacher in 2011 after her predecessor retired.

Ledri first entered her art students in the county fair in 2015. Approximately 50 creations from the students in the two advanced art classes Ledri taught during 2014-2015 were displayed in the Student Showcase.

Students from kindergarten through sixth grade can enter works in the Creative Youth exhibit, and in 2016, the Student Showcase and Creative Youth exhibits had 35 pieces from Ledri's students. Sullivan added a three-dimensional design and printmaking class for 2016-2017, and Ledri's three classes that academic year had 78 students who participated in the county fair. The 2018 fair included artwork from Ledri's 83 students.

For 2018-2019 the school yearbook was incorporated into the 3-D design and printmaking class. Sullivan had 86 entries in the 2019 county fair's Student Showcase and Creative Youth exhibits.

The coronavirus epidemic canceled the 2020 county fair. The 2021 fair did not include the Student Showcase, Creative Youth or other competitive exhibits. Ledri and her students returned to the county fair in 2022 with 30 entries.

"We did pretty well," she said.

For specific categories, place ribbons are awarded based on points rather than head-to-head competition. The first-place award winners are judged against each other for Best of Class and subsequently Best of Division and Best of Show. Sullivan's 2022 entries won first-place ribbons but no Best of Class awards.

During the 2022-2023 school year, she taught a sixth-grade social studies class, the yearbook class and four art classes. The students set a Sullivan school record in completing the 101 entries in the Student Showcase or Best of Pre-K-6th Grade, and the yearbook, which won a first-class ribbon, accounted for a 102nd entry.

"I like challenging them to do that kind of thing," Ledri said.

The Bonsall Education Foundation donated the entry fee for each submission this year.

"Usually in the past I've paid for it and kids would pay me back sometimes," Ledri said.

If a student did not reimburse Ledri for the entry fee, she covered the cost from her personal budget. This year, the entry fee per submission was $3, which equated to $306 for all 102 Sullivan entries.

"Bonsall Education Foundation actually gave us the money for that," Ledri said. "They supported it all the way, so that was really nice."


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