EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 12, 2011

Two Bakie students win national art contest

By Doug Ireland

KINGSTON — It's not every day a school has the best student artist in the state — never mind two of them.

Abbie Sevigny, 9, and Adam Gundersen, 11, of D.J. Bakie School are among just 102 students in the country selected as winners in the All Kids Can Create art competition.

Two students are chosen from each state. The Bakie duo will represent New Hampshire next month when their artwork is featured in an exhibit opening in Washington, D.C.

But Abbie and Adam aren't the only winners at Bakie School. Their art teacher, Maryanne Swegles, was only one of five teachers in the nation also chosen for an all-expenses-paid trip to the nation's capital.

The competition for children ages 5 to 15 is sponsored by CVS Caremark and VSA — The International Organization of Arts and Disability.

The contest's theme was "Imagination Across America" and featured 4,700 entries from across the United States. It recognizes students — both with disabilities and without — for their artistic talent. There were nearly 150 entries from New Hampshire.

A student with a disability and one without were chosen from each state, VSA director Jennifer Wexler said. Adam has autism. Both Bakie School students said they were honored to be chosen.

"I have a great masterpiece," Adam said yesterday.

The fifth-grader's painting, "Fireworks," is just as it sounds — a colorful pyrotechnics display. Abbie drew a winter scene — "Where is the Polar Bear?" — using chalk and oil pastels.

She said her family's skiing trips across the state inspired her artwork.

"I was excited, and my mom bought me a cake," Abbie said.

The third-grader is the daughter of Amy and Paul Sevigny of Kingston. Adam is the son of Deb Bunting Gundersen and Wesley Gundersen of Newton.

The two students, their teacher and family members will travel to Washington in mid-June and spend four days attending openings, a reception and sightseeing. They will meet New Hampshire's congressional delegation and take a limousine ride.

Adam said he has the trip all planned.

"I'm going to go to the pool, a movie and get a massage," he said.

The students' winning entries will be displayed at Union Station in Washington, and then be part of a traveling exhibit for the next two years.

A goal of the competition was to showcase the work of students of all abilities, Wexler said.

"It shows students with and without disabilities are working together, side by side," she said.

VSA was founded by Jean Kennedy Smith in the 1970s to provide arts and educational opportunities for people with disabilities, and provide more access to the arts to everyone.

It's rare for students from the same school to be chosen, Wexler said.

Swegles was honored for an essay she wrote on the importance of integrating special needs students in a typical classroom setting.

"The key to inclusion, I think, is respecting their differences and modifying their learning styles," she said. "They respect each other and help each other."

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