Young artists shine at annual event

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2006

Ashley McKnight-Taylor

A Nansemond River High School student has captured first prize at the 22nd annual Exhibit of Excellence: Suffolk Student Art 2006 at the Suffolk Museum.

Ashley Unmussing’s oil pastel, titled “My Childhood Retreat,” won top honors in an art contest that is open to students from every school in Suffolk. Unmussing received the same honor in the competition last year.


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“It’s kind of ironic,” she said, but added that the recognition was great affirmation of her talent.

Linda Bunch, administrative assistant at the museum, said more students entered this year than ever before. All 175 students entered two pieces each, though only 60 were selected for exhibition.

“It’s always an impressive show,” Bunch said. “It’s consistently really high-quality work.”

Jean Benvenuto Giacolone served as judge this year. Giacolone currently is the lead art teacher at Churchland High School and is a professional artist. Her most recent honor was second place at the Virginia Beach Boardwalk Art Show.

“As I enjoyed the work presented to me,” Giacolone said, “the first criteria I used was strength of design. The pieces culled from the whole shared rich color or subtle control of transitions, inventive textures or stark simplicity of sophistication.”

Richard French, art teacher at Nansemond River High School, said the exhibit is a wonderful opportunity for students. He said he is impressed with the level of talent evident in the works.

“It’s always a joy to see how far-reaching these students can go with these pieces,” he said.

The purpose of the exhibit is to recognize, encourage and promote the work of sophomore, junior and senior students in Suffolk. It will run through Feb. 26.

The first place winner receives a $150 U.S. Savings Bond, second place receives a $100 bond, and third place a $75 bond. Honorable mentions receive $20 each.

Award winners are: First Place, Ashley Unmussing, “My Childhood Retreat,” Nansemond River High School; Second Place, Brittany Vick, “Self Portrait in Youth Room,” Lakeland High School; and Third Place, Max Greenhood, “Venice Sails,” Nansemond Suffolk Academy.

Honorable Mentions: Stephanie Baur, “Jail Break,” Nansemond-Suffolk Academy; Shuborna Devanath, “Where I Stand,” Nansemond-Suffolk Academy; Latonia Gatting, “Pieces of Picasso,” Kings Fork High School; Jeremiah Morse, “Rhapsody,” Nansemond-Suffolk Academy; Heather Woody, “Jazz” and “Bottle Lizard,” Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

Juror’s Choice Awards: Wade Cotton, Courtney Henderson, and Olivia White, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy; and Melissa Dunn, Lakeland High School

The Suffolk Museum, 118 Bosley Ave., is open Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. For more information, contact the Suffolk Art League office at 925-0448.

The Exhibit of Excellence is made possible in part by a grant from the Suffolk Fine Arts Commission.

Contact McKnight-Taylor at