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Tiffani York of St. Michael School in South Sioux City, left, Becky Morine of St. Wenceslaus School and Larry Stevens of St. Pius X/St. Leo School, both in Omaha, discuss entries Dec. 5 before choosing nine winners in the Catholic Voice Colors of Christmas art contest. Photo by Joe Ruff/Staff.

Nearly 2,500 entries reflect talent, help needy

Perspective, creative details, bright, clear colors and telling a story …

Those were among elements art teachers took into account as they judged 2,443 entries in the Catholic Voice’s sixth annual Colors of Christmas art contest.

And the work of Rachel Fernandes, a fifth-grader at St. Stephen the Martyr School in Omaha, rose to the top, claiming not only first place in her grade category but also the grand prize.

Students depicted scenes from the second chapter of Matthew, the three Wise Men following the star and bearing gifts to the baby Jesus. Rachel's artwork is on the front page of the Dec. 18 issue of the newspaper, and eight other winners’ work is showcased on Pages 16-18 of the same issue -- two additional winners in grades four through six and three winners each in second through third and kindergarten through first grades. Click here to see a gallery of the artwork.

In addition to awarding gift cards to the winners and displaying their work in the newspaper, the contest provides an opportunity for entrants to reflect on their faith, share their talents … and once again this year, help the needy.

That’s because Woodhouse Auto Family is donating one can of food per entry – more than 100 cases – to be divided among three food pantries: St. Joseph Parish in Walthill, St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Simon House in Columbus and Northeast Community Action Center in Norfolk.

Woodhouse also matched each of last year’s 2,512 entries with a can of food for two food pantries and two homeless shelters in Omaha.

And thanks to four participating sponsors – Divine Truth Christian Store in La Vista and Gloria Deo, Parables and the Cosgrave Company in Omaha – first-place winners in each category receive $75 in sponsor gift cards, second place $50 and third $25. As the overall winner, Rachel receives an additional $50 in gift cards.

Also supported by Catholic Mutual Group as an underwriter, the contest was open to students in the Archdiocese of Omaha attending a Catholic school, parish religious education program or schooled at home.

Rachel said ideas for her artwork included a desire to make each of the three Wise Men look different, an approach noted by the judges as they credited her with placing one Wise Man in profile, the other two nearly face-on with the viewer.

That kind of perspective played a role in this year’s judging, as did the amount of work students appeared to put into their drawings, said Becky Morine, art teacher at St. Wenceslaus School in Omaha.

"We talked quite a bit, and paid attention to the composition, placement and size of objects," Morine said of the judge’s panel, which also included Larry Stevens of St. Pius X/St. Leo School in Omaha and Tiffani York of St. Michael School in South Sioux City.

Rachel said she entered the contest each of the last three or four years, and it was fun to win this time. She enjoyed the contest for another reason, too … taking time to think about the real reason for the Christmas season.

"I’m excited about Jesus coming to my heart," she said.

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