- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

PERU, Ind. (AP) - A 16-year-old Peru High School junior has won a prestigious national art award for her drawing titled “Behind Bars.”

Kaylee Anderson beat out more than 250,000 art and writing pieces submitted by students from every state in the nation to win a gold medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

By landing a national gold medal, Anderson has joined an elite group of winners that include famous artists and writers like Stephen King, Andy Warhol and Truman Capote.

Since 1923, the Awards has recognized the exceptional vision of the nation’s youth, and provided an opportunity for students to be noticed for their creative talents, according to its website.

Anderson said it was a mixed bag of feelings when she found out she won.

“I can be self-conscious sometimes, and I tried to be humble about it,” she told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1jjZC9m ). “But I was excited. It’s really cool.”

Anderson said her china-marker drawing depicts her younger cousin, Nathan, standing behind a chain-link fence with an ambiguously sad look on his face.

She said she drew the picture from a photo, which she liked because it seemed open to interpretation.

“It just feels like there could be many meanings to it,” she said.

Mike Applegate, an art teacher at the school who submitted Anderson’s piece to the competition, said it’s easy to see why the 18x24-inch drawing won the award, but it’s hard to pin down what makes it so compelling.

“The easiest way to explain it is just to look at it,” he said. “You’ll see the reason. It tells a story. You get a certain feeling when you look at it. It’s incredible.”

Applegate said he submitted more than 100 pieces created in the school’s art classes to the regional competition. Out of those, 35 made it the national level, and only Anderson’s drawing won a gold medal.

It’s only the third time a Peru High School student has won the award, he said. The last time was four years ago.

At nationals, the drawing went up against over 250,000 pieces of art and writing in categories like painting, sculpture, poetry, photography and journalism.

Out of all of those, only around 1,800 pieces were chosen for an award.

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