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Local student artist wins statewide recognition

Andrew Brooks received his award at a ceremony in Madison last weekend. With him is Brian Zelenak of Hudson, who is on the board of directors for VSA. Zelenak is working with Bridge for Hudson Youth with Disabilities to develop art classes for special-needs students in this area. Photo by Meg Heaton1 / 2
Andrew Brooks' painting was chosen by every judge as one of the winners at the recent VSA-Very Special Arts competition in Madison. Photo by Meg Heaton2 / 2

Andrew Brooks at age 8 has already had the kind of recognition a lot of would-be artists dream about. But for the 8-year-old Willow River second-grader it might be just the beginning.

Brooks, the son of Gayle and Dan Brooks, was adopted from Russia when he was 17 months old. He was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when he was a little over 4 years old.

Gayle Brooks says her son has always liked to draw and has already been at it for years. He has always been interested in landmarks and large structures and enjoys drawing, often with amazing detail. His teacher, Tara Tuchel, suggested he enter one of his drawings in the VSA-Very Special Arts of Wisconsin competition.

"We chose one that we called 'The City' to get it in by the deadline. But he continued to draw the same thing, and the one we submitted wasn't even one of the best, but the judges seemed to think pretty highly of it," said Gayle.

At a recent Hudson Board of Education meeting, Andrew was recognized for his accomplishment and told board members about the painting, which depicts a multi-level parking structure with stairwells, roads and skyscrapers in the distance. He told the board that it was a scene from New York City, but his mother believes the inspiration came from the parking garage in downtown Minneapolis near I-394, another landmark Andrew is familiar with.

Several judges evaluated the work in the competition and made lists of the finalists. Andrew's painting was the only one to be chosen by all of the judges.

"They were very impressed with his work and said to encourage him to work in different media. He might end up in drafting or something like that but for right now, he's like a lot of 8-year-old boys -- he wants to be a fireman," said Gayle.

Andrew received his award at a presentation in Madison last weekend. He received a $100 gift certificate for art supplies as part of his prize. VSA sponsors classes and opportunities across the state for students with a wide range of disabilities.

When Andrew received the call that he had won, he ran to his mother and said, "I'm a winner."

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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