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Autism Awareness tops MUSD Art Show
Stella Vaughn, 3, gets a little help from her sister, Lexi, a junior at Sierra High, to get a better view of the students art work on display at the 2013 District Art Show & Sale. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Samantha Shepard’s ceramic “Autism Awareness” won Best in Category at the 2013 Manteca Unified School District’s Best of the Best Art Show and Sale.

The original art work is meaningful not only on a personal level for the Sierra High School senior but is significant in more ways than one as well. Her interpretation of the symbol for autism – a puzzle within a puzzle – was inspired by her 27-year-old uncle who is autistic. She also intended the three-dimensional art work to raise public awareness to this development disorder which affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.

Shepard, who was the recipient of the 2013 Clarese Anderson Memorial Art Scholarship Award given by the Manteca Federated Women’s Club, made her award-winning ceramic sculpture to give as a gift to her mother in honor of her autistic brother. Sadly, the day before Shepard received her scholarship award about a week ago, her mother passed away.

“I’ll probably just keep it for myself,” she said about the sculpture during the art show event at the district office Tuesday night.

The winner of the 2013 Best in Show went to East Union High School’s Advanced Art student Angela Gongora for her colorful original drawing.

For the first time this year, the evening event included a musical performance by the students of East Union Choir Director Jennifer Grover. The choral numbers included duets by Robyn Glover and Amanda Lopez who performed a piece from the Broadway musical, “Wicked,” and by Samantha Keith and Ally Ayres who sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables.” Likewise making a maiden appearance this year are two award categories – People’s Choice and Students’ Choice awards.

The exhibit is not just to showcase the artistic talents of students in the district. They were also available for sale. Several pieces from previous years’ art shows have been purchased by various district staff and are now on display in the district office.

The talents of the young artists earned kudos from many of the guests which included family and friends. “This is amazing. You hear so much about the bad things (teen-agers) do.  It’s nice to see that they can do something like this,” said Pat Grim who was a first-time visitor to the district art show. She and her husband were there to see their grandson’s work – “a digital something” – which was one of the entries from Weston Ranch High School. Grandson James Grim Telles is a sophomore at Weston Ranch.

“There’s a lot of good stuff this year,” said Sierra High junior Lexi Vaughn whose ceramic sculptures were also on display Tuesday night and whose other works also made it to the district-level show last year. Her ceramic coil vase won first place, and another placed third.

The district art show is a collection of the best from the various schools, from kindergarten to high school, in Manteca Unified. Selections that go to the district-wide event are done by the schools’ art teachers. Judging at the district level is done by art professionals outside of the school district such as San Joaquin Delta College and Modesto Junior College, according to Superintendent Jason Messer.

“This is a very good show,” said Board of Trustee Evelyn Moore as she got ready to make a selection for the People’s Choice award.