WSHS students earn dazzling display of awards including Schafer’s Best in Show two years running

It’s no secret that youth artistic talent is abundant in this community and with many prestigious awards won by Wessington Springs High School students recently, the bar has continued to raise higher and higher for local student artists.  

Our small town artists continue to embrace their spot in the limelight on the larger stage, as shown when five Wessington Springs students took home hefty prizes at the 2019 Youth Art Show at Dakota Discovery Museum in Mitchell. The 2019 Best in Show was awarded to Kenzee Schafer for her work entitled “Pride” — the second year in a row that she took home this rare title along with $1000 prize money and hundreds of dollars in art supplies for the high school art program. 

The contest featured works from 20 schools across the state, for a total of 356 pieces of art entered. Houston Mees won third place out of all high school entries for his painting and Piper Jones, Angela Paulson and Brock Stevens won three out of the seven Honorable mentions awarded during the contest. Mees and Jones were also awarded two of the four Dakota Wesleyan University scholarships given out at the contest.

“I feel really blessed to work with kids that try this hard and give their best effort,” said WSHS Art Instructor Alicia Roesler. “Their work went up against artwork from schools across the state and they did incredibly well.”

Roesler said that during the show, judges, art teachers and attendees were buzzing about “Washington Senior High School (WSHS)” and the level of talent displayed by students from what they thought was a Sioux Falls school. When Roesler realized that the “WSHS” folks were talking about were her students from Wessington Springs High School, she graciously pointed out their error and clarified that WS stood for Wessington Springs. 

“Last year and this year again, students from Wessington Springs High School definitely held their ground against those larger schools and really stood out,” she pointed out.  

So much so, that Dakota Discovery Museum extended an invitation to several of Roesler’s students to exhibit their work in an upcoming exhibition. 

“The museum said that the invitation is based on the subject matter and the high quality of their work,” Roesler said. “They are the only student artists who have been invited to submit to the exhibition.” 

The upcoming exhibition is called “New Land, New Hope” and tells the African American story of South Dakota from 1804 to the mid-20th century. It is a public exhibition, meaning the exhibition will be viewed by everyone who visits the museum, running from May through November.  

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the students, I’m so happy for them,” exclaimed Roesler about the show, that has a private opening on May 16, with students and their families invited to attend. “This is a great achievement for them and is excellent experience they can list on scholarship applications and job resumes in the future whether they go into an art career or not.”

Roesler believes in pushing kids to the next level but she is quick to give her students credit for their successes. “They are willing to put the time in and push themselves. It would be impossible to complete these types of high-level projects only during class time,” she said. “I do my best to give them the teaching knowledge I can and to stay late and help. That’s the least I can do when they are willing to put in the time and accept the challenges I give them.”