When Kassidy Gray heard the theme of a contest to design a flag representing Tennessee, she immediately thought of her grandparents.
A junior at L&N STEM Academy, Gray tapped her memories of gardening and stargazing to produce a flag that was named the grand prize winner in the Tennessee Youth Art Month Flag Design Contest in February.
Besides earning a $1,000 cash prize, her design was featured earlier this month at the National Art Education Association convention in Boston, and the STEM Academy received $1,500 worth of art supplies from Sargent Art, the sponsor.
The theme of this year’s contest was “Your Art, Your Story.” Gray said memories of her maternal grandmother’s backyard garden inspired her to create white irises in place of the flag’s three stars. A floral background on the flag’s red field, she said, was “reminiscent of gardening all the time with my grandmother when I was younger, and just running around in her garden.”
More recently, Gray has gone on weeklong camping trips with her paternal grandparents, trips that inspired her to add a starry sky on the flag’s blue field.
“At night it’s really pretty,” she said. “You’re away from a bunch of light pollution … so usually I just like to lay outside on a blanket or something and look at the stars.”
Her visual art teacher, Cheri Jorgenson, said that Gray has always been a strong art student but that her work has grown more sophisticated during her time at L&N.
Jorgenson also pointed out that Gray was one of two L&N students selected recently in a competition to design guitars for this year’s Dogwood Arts Rhythm & Blooms Festival. Gray will add the design to an Epiphone guitar that will be auctioned to support the Dogwood Arts Festival.
Gray’s flag design – made into a real flag for the convention – was created using a Cintiq electronic tablet and a digital painting program called FireAlpaca.
She said digital tools make it easier to experiment without buying a lot of new supplies and allows her to separate a piece into layers.
As for the award, she’s still processing it: “I was not expecting this at all,” she said. “It was just a shock to me.”