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Student wins Congressional Award for portraiture

Photo courtesy of Alea Jennings

Photo courtesy of Alea Jennings

Chloe-Amelie Aikman, Features Manager

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Until junior Alea Jennings reached high school, drawing had hardly ever crossed her mind. Now she has received a Congressional Award for it — and her images will be on display in Washington D.C. for a year.

“I was always into art when I was younger because my grandmother was an artist,” Jennings said. “I just didn’t know I could draw because I only worked with acrylic.”

Jennings accredits the discovery of what would become one of her passions, realism rendered through graphite, to the intervention of her art teacher Stacy Rosende freshman year.

“I really got into art in high school because Ms. Rosende helped me learn different techniques,” Jennings said. “She just showed me how to use a Q-tip, and that was how it started.”

Now a student of AP Studio Art, Jennings has embraced drawing through the development of her portfolio, using the 12-image “concentration” segment to explore portraiture and observational drawing inspired by her photography.

“[My concentration] was the message of how people perceive others based on their imperfections, in a sense,” Jennings said. “Reality is different from what the media leads on. I feel like character makes people … especially wrinkles.”

Out of this body of works, three were submitted to Rep. Kathy Castor’s annual Congressional Art Competition at the Tampa Museum of Art under the title “Genetics”. These pieces, portraits of her mother and father with herself placed between, investigate shared characteristics among family.

“[I wanted to communicate] how children won’t necessarily look exactly like one parent — they’ll have qualities of each,” Jennings said. “I see that through my work.”

Judged by a panel of local artists, the Arts Council of Hillsborough Country, experts from the Tampa Museum of Art and others, Jennings’ work was selected for this honor among 57 entries from over a dozen high schools. As a recipient of this award, she will receive a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design a

s well as be flown to the District of Columbia for a national art competition reception in June. Her art, along with other winners of congressional art competitions nationwide, will be showcased for the year.

“[The most rewarding part of this experience] is just the opportunities it’s going to bring to me, with the scholarship and everything,” Jennings said.

In addition, art teacher Stacy Rosende received recognition as the winner of the Pam Heilig Award, founded in memory of a Jefferson High School teacher who dedicated her life to involving her students in the arts.

“They’ve made these awards to reward those who have gone over and beyond what they’re required to do,” Rosende said. “Getting everybody out and in these contests and competing and making excellent work that is ready to go into the community takes more work, more effort; these awards encourage teachers to keep doing that.”

Part of this award grants the winner $1,000, funds that Rosende has plans to invest in the furthering of the art program on campus.

“The award — I’d like that to support more student involvement in the community,” Rosende said. “I’d like it to go towards that because I think it’s very important that you guys see yourself in that context, so you can have exhibitions like we did at the Tampa Bay History Center and continue those types of things — that would be wonderful.”

Jennings, while debating whether to pursue her own career as an artist, is exploring opportunities to involve her love of observational work in a unique crossover: forensic sciences.

“They kept asking me if I wanted to be an artist, and I don’t know,” Jennings said. “I want to be a forensic artist, in a sense — draw people that were part of crime scenes. It’s really different, really scary-looking … it’s interesting.”

In the meantime, with a future in drawing to consider, Jennings awaits her tour of Washington D.C. with Castor and will represent the artistic talent of District 14.

Photo courtesy of Alea Jennings
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