NEW RICHMOND -- “The VFW posted all the pieces that I was up against on their Facebook page in alphabetical order by state. With me being from Wisconsin, I could see everyone else's artwork before mine at nationals. I’m looking at them and I was like, ‘Holy cats, I don’t have a chance,” said Katelyn Doehrmann.
New Richmond High School art teacher Bridget Haugen has been a loyal supporter of the Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest for more than a decade. She sees the annual competition sponsored by the VFW Post 10818 New Richmond/St. Croix County Auxiliary as an opportunity for her Art 2 students to apply their creative vision and skills to express their patriotism.
“They can make their artwork to say anything they'd like about what they love about their country. That could include family and serving and that type of thing. I like the fact that they can take this idea and go in any direction they want,” said Haugen.
It doesn’t hurt that the first through third place winners of the contest in St. Croix County win $250, $150 and $100 respectively.
“The auxiliary does a great job with the prizes. Anytime you have a contest where I have just a small group of kids, I tell them, ‘Hey first prize is $250 and odds are you’re only competing against a handful of kids from your class. This is a great opportunity,’” said Haugen.
Post 10818 Auxiliary member Gayle House coordinates the contest in St. Croix County. She starts each year by sending a letter containing the contest information to the high school art programs at all of the public, private and parochial schools in the county. She follows up with phone calls and frequently several phone calls to make sure schools are aware of the opportunity. She oversees the submission process for the post and assembles the panel of judges, this year consisting of two auxiliary members and two community members.
Student artists have the potential to win cash prizes at the local and state level and scholarships at the national level. At the state level, the top winners receive $1,500, $1,000 and $750 respectively. At the national level, winners receive scholarships valued at $15,000, $7,500 and $3,500 respectively.
New Richmond freshman art student Katelyn Doehrmann seized the opportunity this year.
“My first thought was, ‘Man, I want an A on this project.’ I really wasn’t concerned with anything else. I thought first place would be pretty cool at the auxiliary level. I honestly didn’t know there was a state and national level,” said Doehrmann.
Maybe that was a good thing, no added pressure. Doehrmann’s composite graphite illustration of her grandfather Wilfred Branter, a veteran of the Korean War, titled “I Remember,” took first Place in the Post 10818 competition, first at the Wisconsin VFW competition and third in the National VFW competition.
“We’ve never had anybody go this far,” said House.
“I knew I wanted to portray a veteran. I just thought it was a perfect opportunity. My first thought was my mom’s dad, my grandpa because I never got to know him. He passed away before I was born. So I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get to know his stories, do the research and pass them on. The story I wrote to go along with it, that was fun as well,” explained Doehrmann.
Doehrmann’s piece combines a collection of pencil renderings from black-and-white photographs of her grandfather overlain with the artist’s hands holding another photo with brilliant red poppies in each hand.
“I tried to hit symbolism big on this project because I knew it would be a real thing that would be considered when judging, hence the poppies which symbolize remembrance. Pretty much everyone knows that. I made those the only things colored because I knew they would pop, contrast with everything else in black and white so you know those are in the past. But then I used my own hands for the visual to show that I remember, that I’m bringing these stories forward into the present,” explained Doehrmann.
Doehrmann admitted there was a little luck involved in the composition, thanks to her older brother.
“We were rushing to school because we were a little late, my older brother and I. I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to get the visual. I need this for art class.’ I was just holding the drawing and I told him to take the picture, ‘Just take the picture.’ He took the picture and it ended up being a great composition. The poppies weren’t actually in the original photo. I just drew those in afterwards. It just happened to work out in my favor,” said Doehrmann.