Yulitza Andrade is excited. But nervous. She sits in an auditorium with more than 50 other students. She rearranges the pencils, paper and paints on her desk. Her parents and art teacher sit anxiously with other adults at the back of the theater. Will Yulitza win the gold medal?
For the past six years, the Kiwanis Club of Atuntaqui, Ecuador, has teamed with area schools and the Canton Antonio Ante to organize a competition among young artists. The event is part of an international program sponsored by the United Nations Program for the Environment. The best artwork from the Atuntaqui contest is forwarded to Panama for regional judging. Regional winners receive all-expenses-paid trips for two to Japan. The topic is “food waste.” The artists have three hours to complete their drawings. It’s 10 a.m. Yulitza opens her paints and grabs a brush. “Begin!”
“We do this event because it encourages children and youth to care about the environment and because it discovers the best artistic talents,” says club Secretary Martha Andrade Posso.
Prior to each year’s event, Kiwanians study the UNEP guidelines, send invitations for entries through the schools and conduct conferences to teach children about the contest’s topic. They also select a jury and purchase certificates, medals and other prizes. It’s almost 1 p.m. Yulitza puts the finishing touches to her drawing. Abasket holds a crop of happy fruits and vegetable, tended by smiling people. There’s even a happy worm, grinning as it crawls from a hole in the husk of a smiling ear of corn.
At 1 p.m., all the artwork is collected and separated by age groups. The jury analyzes each picture, using the theme, its message, creativity, and applied artistic merits as parameters.
“Then we share a meal, where we have the opportunity to announce the outcomes of the competition,” Posso says. Most awards already have been presented. Yulitza watched as Camila Proaño walked forward to accept first place among 9 to 10 year olds. Marlon Ascha won for technical merit in the same age group. Natasha Leon and Melissa Lomas took third and second place respectively among students 11 years and older.
Ing. Luis Bravo Prado, mayor of Atuntaqui, steps up to the microphone, looks across the audience and announces:
"The winner of the gold medal is Yulitza Andrade!” — Jack Brockley