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Photo Gallery | 18th annual “Evening of Excellence” reveals Top 25

Sarasota County, Florida -- Original works of art by 25 students from seven Sarasota County high schools captured top honors Wednesday night as teachers, families, fans and other competitors cheered.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County kicked off festivities for the 18th Evening of Excellence at Ringling School of Art and Design. Event chair Taylor Collins announced all Top 25 winners for the annual competition, including Best of Show and Best of School winners.

Tristan Rivers, a Sarasota High School freshman, won Best of Show for his sculpture, Through Dimensions. Six other Best of School winners include Samantha Peace from Suncoast Poytechnical, Avory LaValliere from Booker High, Courtney Thomassen from Pine View, Micah Mathewson from Venice High, Alina Timshina from North Port High, and Ines Balasch from Riverview High.

In a blind-scoring process, a panel of six arts professionals chose the top twenty-five works out of 304 entries submitted by students from every public high school in Sarasota County. All entries were on display for public viewing at the Ringling College of Art and Design, the scene of tonight’s announcements.

During the public exhibit from Jan. 12-15, 211 votes were also cast by visitors for the new Marie B. Ritter People's Choice Award. North Port High’s Anastasia Sacali received the most votes and captured the $200 award for her painting of the Eiffel Tower entitled Croyance.

Susan Scott and Peter Hayes, the Education Foundation’s executive director and board chairman, welcomed the audience of over 225 to the reception. Sarasota County schools superintendent Lori White congratulated participants, praising the students for taking risks with their work and the art teachers for their dedication. Ringling College’s admissions director James Dean presented the Heart of Art Awards, including free supplies and tuition for summer art classes, to promising young artists selected by their high school art teachers.

Taylor T. Collins, 2013 Evening of Excellence committee chair, announced the winners and five other students who achieved Honorable Mention recognition. The student artists are donating all 25 of their winning pieces – paintings, photographs, mixed media, sculpture and more – to the Education Foundation. Both the students and their art will be photographed by Gene Pollux of Pollux Photography and Digital Imaging. Then each piece will be professionally framed by local galleries that are donating materials and services.

Finally, the students will be honored at the Evening of Excellence gala dinner and auction on Feb. 22, when they will see their work auctioned off to the highest bidder. Last year’s event grossed over $269,000 in cash and in-kind gifts, including a live auction total of $45,350. Proceeds benefit the 41,400 students enrolled in Sarasota County’s public schools through the work of the Education Foundation.

The 24 students receive monetary prizes from $500 to $2,000 as well as other gifts and recognition for their talent and generosity. An estimated $40,000 in prizes, scholarships and art department grants will be presented during this year’s Evening of Excellence activities.

The Juried Art Show panel of judges includes Matthew McLendon, Ph.D. of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, James H. Dean and Anthony Rice from Ringling College of Art and Design, renowned Florida wilderness photographer Clyde Butcher and his wife Niki Butcher, and Elaine Charney, water color artist and instructor at Adult and Community Education/Sarasota County Technical Institute.

Evening of Excellence is both an innovative art program and a well-established Sarasota social event. This year's theme is My Blue Heaven, taking inspiration from the student whose award-winning work from last year’s event was adapted for the gala invitation. Sponsorships are available starting at $1,000. Individual tickets are $200, $250 for patrons. The date for this year’s dinner and auction is Friday, Feb. 22. Festivities begin at 6:00 p.m. at Michael’s On East.

To request an invitation or for more information, call the Education Foundation at 941-927-0965 or see the web site at www.EdFoundation.net.

Release courtesy of Education Foundation of Sarasota County.