Central Illinois artists are celebrated worldwide-think Lonnie Stewart and Preston Jackson-but the area produces an astounding crop of young artists every year, as well. To celebrate these talented youth, Illinois Central College hosts an annual Portfolio Day, which took place this year May 7.

"Portfolio Day is a chance for high school and home-educated junior and senior art students within the Illinois Central College district to showcase their work and win prizes in a juried competition," said ICC Lead Adjunct Faculty and Portfolio Day organizer Marilyn Zick Johnson.

The event took place for the first time last year and was initiated by the ICC art faculty. "It’s a way to emphasize the importance of a strong portfolio when applying for a degree in art," she explained. "It also provides awareness of Illinois Central College’s art department and the quality of the instructors."

Each student may enter five pieces of art, including two dimensional and three dimensional. All work must be original and completed within the last two years. "The college art faculty critiques and pre-judges each piece," Johnson said. "One piece is selected from each student’s entries to advance to the final judging by art faculty."

Several factors are taken into account during the judging, she said. "The jury considers a high degree of critical technical skills with maturity toward a conceptual approach to the artist’s own personal concept."

The following awards are presented annually: first place, $100 and ribbon; second place, $50 and ribbon; third place, $25 and ribbon; and honorable mention, ribbon. There’s also a People’s Choice category, which Johnson said is determined by votes from those viewing the exhibit.

The 2003 first place winner was Amanda Snow of Richwoods High School, with her piece, "Wisdom." People’s Choice winner was Bryan Winemiller of Washington Community High School.

Students aren’t the only ones celebrated at Portfolio Day. Because of the role they often play in a student’s progress and success, teachers also are rewarded, Johnson said. The teacher of the first place student receives a $50 gift certificate to Michael’s, and the winner of a random drawing of the remaining teacher’s names receives a $25 gift certificate.

In addition to the student exhibits and awards, Portfolio Day includes other events such as a tour of the ICC photography room, a ceramics demonstration, and an exhibit featuring the work of the ICC art faculty.

Johnson said 11 schools and 47 students participated in Portfolio Day last year, while nine schools with 53 students-and five home-schooled students-make up the field this year. "We’ve had very good comments from teachers about this event, and they especially stress the need for working on an art portfolio. Many said they and the students enjoyed seeing the art done by the faculty-seeing art by the people who were judging them. There were also great comments about seeing the ceramics demonstration," she said.

Johnson said though some viewers of Portfolio Day exhibits may be surprised by the level of talent demonstrated by these youngsters, the faculty wasn’t. They also weren’t surprised to learn that most of the entrants planned to go on to college and study art.

"The best part of hosting Portfolio Day is seeing the students’ interest-and talent-in art. The most challenging part, as always, is to judge the work and choose just a few to give awards," she said. AA!