The Agnes Markwalter Youth Art Competition is more than a vehicle for young artists to show their work -- it's a legacy and tribute to an artist whose life and career ended too soon.
In 1978, Augusta native Agnes Markwalter had the world in front of her. At age 19, she had won first place in the prestigious Modern Art Factory Student Award Program. Her winning sculpture was cast in bronze and displayed at the Kennedy Gallery in New York.
Sadly, that same year Ms. Markwalter died in an automobile accident.
One year later, the Agnes Markwalter Youth Art Competition was founded in her memory. Sponsored by the Irish American Society and the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, the competition accepts works of artists from kindergarten through high school. Entries are taken from private and public schools in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties and from home-schooled students.
"I think this fills an important niche," said Heather Crist, one of the competition's judges. "I mean there are science fairs and literary competitions. This is the same, only involving art."
The competition and exhibition are sponsored by the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art. Winners will be announced at a reception at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The competition is divided into four divisions -- K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 -- with cash awards of $20, $15 and $10 given for first, second and third place in each division. There will also be a $50 Best of Show prize given to a single work.
Ms. Crist said that she would take a different approach to judging than she might with older, more practiced artists.
"I won't be judging on use of color or technique with these," she explained. "I'll be looking for creativity and originality. Basically what I'll look for is potential."
For many of the students in the competition, the prizes are secondary to the chance to participate in a public exhibition.
"It's kind of a neat experience to be able to show people how you express yourself and how you feel about a subject," said Caleb Morris, 18, a Westminster Schools senior. "Art is a way to express yourself, and this gives people a glimpse into my life. That's pretty cool."
Caleb said his entry, an untitled oil/turpentine wash of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, was inspired by his faith.
Thomas Meimarides, 16, a Davidson Fine Arts High School junior, said his entry, a three-dimensional piece, also comes from a personal place.
"It's kind of a vase, but it's very rounded, very Greek," he explained. "My family is Greek, and we've been there several times. And I think I was inspired by that."
For Elizabeth Markwalter, the contest that bears her late sister's name is a fitting memorial.
"It gives children an opportunity to compete and display and encourages them to continue with art," she said. "She would have liked that."
Although the family has no direct involvement in the competition, Ms. Markwalter said she is happy to see the longevity it has achieved.
"I think it shows how well thought of my sister was," she said. "The fact that it still carries her name really says something."
What: The 21st Annual Agnes Markwalter Youth Art Competition
When: Reception and awards ceremony 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The works will remain on exhibit until March 29.
Where: The Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, 506 Telfair St.