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HomeArtStudent Artist Earns Local, National Art Awards

Student Artist Earns Local, National Art Awards

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At age 17, Kaitlyn Stires of Brooksville accomplished what many artists dream of—winning two major art awards. Stires, a home school student, and her portrait “Werifesteria” claimed the highly coveted Best in Hernando honor in the 43rd Annual Congressional Art Competition for High School Students in the 12th Congressional District of Florida. She won first place in the Sculpture division of the Student Art Show at the 2024 Art in the Park event.

It might surprise many to know that Kaitlyn has no formal art training; what she does have is a mind, talent and imagination that bring lush and colorful fantasy images beautifully to life—not to mention a rich body of artistic experience that is already a decade old. “I’ve been interested in art since I was seven years old,” she said. “I would look up games and fan art for inspiration.”

Starting with crayons and advancing to pencils, paints and computer art, Kaitlyn commenced to create her own original artwork. She stated, “Through art, I found a way to express myself. Through the passion of any artist is an expression of thoughts and feelings, as stylized through their chosen media.”

Kaitlyn’s chosen topic and artistic theme also bring her a great deal of joy. “Through art, you can create other worlds,” she said.

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This is certainly the case with “Knight of Beauty,” the rainbow spectrum of a radiant sculpture that claimed her top honors in the Sculpture category of the Art in the Park Student Art Show. Art in the Park, an annual event dedicated to fine art, craftsmanship and community that creates a unique opportunity and tradition for artists, collectors and patrons of the arts, was presented by the Hernando County Fine Arts Council on March 9 and 10. “The work shows a knight in an old castle; the knight is reflecting,” Kaitlyn said.

Upon seeing Kaitlyn’s work, Art in the Park officials invited her to enter the Congressional Art Competition, launched in 1982 and coordinated by Members of Congress. This is an annual high school art competition and exhibition representing congressional districts across the nation. The competition is hosted locally by Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis & the Congressional Institute and supported by the Hernando County Fine Arts Council.

“‘Werifesteria’ is a 2D work created with Prismacolor pencils and markers, with a touch of sparkle,” Kaitlyn said. “It presents a fantasy world, with its name taken from an old English word.” Kaitlyn expressed how overjoyed she and her family were upon hearing the news of both wins.

Pedram Moghaddam, art gallery coordinator of the Brooksville Art Gallery at 201 and vice chair of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, currently displays Kaitlyn’s winning sculpture at the gallery. He takes pride in the success of this talented student artist. “She is a well-rounded artist at her age—with skills in many mediums,” he said. “I’ve seen this time and time again with homeschooled students. A page public education can learn from homeschooling.

Kaitlyn, currently a junior, is currently on the lookout for more art projects and competitions. “No matter what I end up doing, art will always be a part of my life,” she said.

Kaitlyn Stires with her sculpture “Knight of Beauty.” [Photo courtesy of Michelle Pate-Stires]
Kaitlyn Stires with her sculpture “Knight of Beauty.”
[Photo courtesy of Michelle Pate-Stires]

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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