Five West Orange-area students were selected to have their artwork on display at WonderWorks.
As the winners of a recent WonderWorks art contest, five local students are experiencing the wonder of having their work on display at the upside-down Orlando attraction.
Last year, many people turned to art as a creative outlet for coping with the pandemic. The lockdown and quarantine periods gave everyone time to think and create. WonderWorks staff at its Branson, Missouri, location decided to create a youth art contest.
WonderWorks attractions already feature galleries of illusion art and Dr. Seuss’ unorthodox taxidermy sculptures, among other masterpieces on display. When the Orlando staff heard of their sister location’s contest, they immediately knew they wanted to offer it, as well.
“It was super successful over there (in Branson), so we opened it here,” said Katie Taber, education manager at WonderWorks Orlando. “2020 has been really challenging for everyone. It’s really given us the time to think and create, so we gave local schools and local students a chance to get creative, think about the year and think about things in the future. That’s kind of where the idea of the whole exhibit and the specific subject, ‘Time to Think,’ came from.”
“Whether you’ve imagined a world much different than the one we’re living in or you dreamed up the next great invention, WonderWorks wants to encourage young artists to think and express your thoughts through art,” staff wrote on the Branson location’s website.
For the Orlando location’s contest, submissions were accepted from students all over the state. The response was overwhelming and awesome to see, Taber said. Staff received 250 submissions overall by the Dec. 18, 2020, deadline and had to narrow it down to just a few.
“We had all (pictures of) the pieces printed out on paper, and we had our team members select their winners throughout the week, and then we narrowed it down to the top 14 winners,” she said.
Of the 14 winners, those from the West Orange area are Katiana Robinson, a junior at Windermere High; Axani Turin, a sophomore at Windermere High; Katia Companioni, a sophomore at Windermere High; Brandon Diehl, a fifth-grader at Keene’s Crossing Elementary; and Dharik Ramdass, a kindergartner at Westpointe Elementary. Their pieces went on display Friday, Jan. 22.
These pieces will be on display at FLO-ART: Central Florida Youth Art Gallery — located inside WonderWorks Orlando — for a year. The winners also each received four complimentary tickets to WonderWorks to visit the art gallery and see their work on display. Their artwork helps expand the illusion art gallery in a special section created to highlight youth art.
“Congratulations to each of the art contest winners,” said Brian Wayne, general manager of WonderWorks Orlando. “This contest is a great way to encourage the youth in our area to engage in art. We are happy that so many took the time to participate. At WonderWorks, we want to help kids explore, learn and express themselves in healthy ways. We offer fun for the whole family and look forward to a great year ahead.”
According to the School Superintendents Association, the arts play an important role in human development, enhancing the growth of cognitive, emotional and psychomotor pathways. At WonderWorks, Taber said, encouraging both scientific and artistic exploration is the goal.
“Our theme at WonderWorks is let your imagination run wild, so this really gives people not only the science aspect of learning that they’e used to at WonderWorks, but now we’re exploring the arts, as well,” Taber said. “We consider ourselves STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — at play, so art is definitely really important to us, as well.”
Taber said WonderWorks plans to continue running the art contest annually, with submissions accepted each fall. She said one of the best parts of helping facilitate the contest was seeing the positive response and watching how proud the students were of their artwork.
“My favorite part was when the winners came and dropped off their artwork with us,” Taber said. “Just the look on their face and seeing how proud their parents were that they were selected was really cool. Also cool was the emails from the teachers that weren’t able to drop off the art in person — the ‘Thank you’ and ‘That’s so awesome that my student was chosen out of all those selections.’”