Local VFW Auxiliary recognizes talented student

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17-year-old Sylacauga native and homeschooled student Icie Wallace (center, holding certificate) is recognized by Gadsden VFW Auxiliary Post 2760 as the 2021-2022 Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest winner. The Auxiliary awarded Wallace with a $100 check and certificate, sending her artwork to the state level to advance her in the contest. Katie Bohannon/Messenger.

By Katie Bohannon, News Editor

Gadsden Auxiliary VFW Post 2760 honored an extraordinary student on Tuesday, April 19, reinforcing its mission of cultivating an appreciation for service while supporting youth nationwide in their endeavors.

17-year-old Icie Wallace received first-place in the Auxiliary’s Creative Patriotic Art Contest, with her sentimental artwork generating positive impressions throughout the post, signifying a message of gratitude for those who serve and capturing a moment where time stood still.

“I think it’s amazing I’m able to be here tonight,” said Wallace. “I really appreciate that people enjoy my work, because it’s something that I enjoy doing. I’m glad I can share an appreciation of art and just what I see and enjoy. It has a very special significance in this environment, which is really meaningful, because it connects us.”

Established in 1979 by the national VFW Auxiliary, the Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest recognizes promising young artists for their exceptional talents, while fostering a sense of patriotism in students across the country. Each year, thousands of high school students submit original two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces evoking a patriotic theme, crafting meaningful artwork manifesting in a variety of forms – from canvas and paper to pottery and metal work.

Students participating in the contest compete at the local level initially, submitting artwork to VFW Auxiliaries in their respective communities. The first-place winners from each Auxiliary then advance to the contest’s district competition, with those winners continuing to state for further judging. All students selected as first-place winners from their state enter the national competition, which generates $33,000 in awards. In addition to their artwork being featured in VFW Auxiliary Magazine and displayed at the VFW National Convention, National Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest winners receive a $15,000 scholarship – a contribution that coincides with the hundreds of thousands of dollars local and state VFW Auxiliaries award students in scholarships each year.

“The Young American Creative Patriotic Art Contest is important because it invites young people to think about what this country stands for and what sacrifices families make so that we can have the freedoms most take for granted,” said VFW Post 2760 Auxiliary member Barbara Cornelius.

Entitled “A Moment Worth Fighting For,” the winning watercolor piece Wallace created portrays a reunited solider and his wife embracing and caught in a kiss as their three children look on in astonishment and admiration. While the image parallels unforgettable instances for families nationwide, its essence is personal for Wallace – and those appearing in the piece – as the couple captured in her painting represent real people she knows. The wife Wallace sketched is the daughter of a close family friend who experienced what the painting interprets when her husband returned home after a yearlong assignment in Afghanistan.

“It’s her moment,” said Wallace, of the wife and mother depicted in her artwork. “When her husband came home from deployment, it’s this big surprise – her children were there, and you can tell the kids are sort of still in awe. I love the emotion that happens in that moment…it’s just kind of magical. [When they reunite] it’s like everything stands still. Most people like to put lots of movement into their pieces, but I really wanted to freeze that one time.”

VFW Auxiliary Post 2760 members presented Wallace with a check for $100 on Tuesday, commemorating her accomplishment. “A Moment Worth Fighting For” emerges as Wallace’s second local contest win, with her oil painting of a military canine draped in an American flag “My Heroic Friend” winning at the state level last year.

Wallace’s lifelong relationship with art traces back to her earliest memories of childhood, as both an expressive outlet and a method of recording and portraying the world she observes through her own perspective.

She reflected on a significant moment during her homeschool cooperative class, where the mother of one of her best friends encouraged the class to draw whatever they desired. At age 11, Wallace could not decide on a subject, so her friend selected something for her to sketch each week. This motivation – and the spark that emphasized how art connects individuals – served as a catalyst for Wallace, who honed her natural skillset and perfected her craft from that moment forward.

“Our daughter Icie has been given exceptional God-given talents and has determined to use those talents for His glory,” said Wallace’s parents, Lee and Kristie. “It is our prayer that she always strives to serve others by creating meaningful art that provides joy for those who behold it.”

Wallace’s innate curiosity and ceaseless passion for learning inspires her to unmask the science behind powerful artistic creations, educating herself before implementing certain methods. While sketching, she collects as many references as possible, analyzing objects from every angle before putting pencil to paper. Wallace avidly studies color theory and explores how different color combinations affect the brain, granting her a deeper understanding of how audiences perceive artwork. Her parents attested to her diligence and detail-oriented nature, noting her continual daily practice, her dedication to her classwork and her commitment to fellow artists.

Witnessing how artists perceive the world surrounding them, and how those perspectives influence their creations, fascinates Wallace. She discussed the varied approaches artists take when developing pieces, sharing that she enjoys working with controlled, small brush strokes to highlight intricate details, textures and patterns. Some of Wallace’s favorite subjects to sketch and paint are animals – particularly foxes and birds – while mixing colors and exploring natural color palettes proves an essential (and beloved) part of her creative process.

“I know lots of artists that create pieces that feel very cluttered, but in a good way,” said Wallace. “There are little objects that fill every nook and cranny, whereas I like to have one focal point with some embellishments surrounding it. I like to make it very clear where the eye is supposed to go; to pick one specific focus. It’s kind of like a story. There’s a narrative with an environment, but there’s a main character that the story frames as everything else fades behind.”

VFW Post 2760 Auxiliary members shared their impressions of Wallace’s artwork, with Cornelius describing her blending techniques and color choices as impeccable, while Katrina Hubbard emphasized Wallace herself proved as noteworthy as her art.

“It took my breath away,” said Cornelius, who shared Wallace’s work prompted a deep emotional response from her, bringing tears to her eyes and treasured moments to her mind. “It draws you in and tugs at the heart strings. It brought back memories of my Daddy coming home, after being gone for what seemed like forever at six years old.”

“We chose Icie’s painting not only because of her amazing talent, which is obvious to all, but also for her beauty that exudes from within and her intelligence,” said Hubbard, illustrating that Wallace’s remarkable character and illuminating persona mirror the awe-inspiring art she creates. “She has made the VFW 2760 Auxiliary so proud to call her our Patriotic Art Contest winner for a second year in a row. We are praying not only for a second win at the state level, but for Icie to take the national title this year.”

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