MORRILTON Alli Wilson, a 17-year-old senior at Morrilton High School, is the same age that North Little Rock student Thea Kay Leopoulos was in 2001 when she died in a car accident.
Words from Thea’s high school journal inspired Alli to create award-winning artwork.
Alli won first place and a $4,000 scholarship in the high school seniors division of the Thea Foundation Visual-Arts Scholarship Competition.
“We read the ‘Soldiers in Uniform’ journal entry from Thea, who passed away,” Alli said.
The entry, written when Thea was a junior, was about a woman missing her love, a soldier, and looking forward to his arrival home. Instead, the woman received a flag because he died in the war.
Alli said one particular sentence in Thea’s entry caught her attention: “These few letters that I received early aren’t enough.”
“That’s when I knew I wanted to use letters somewhere [in the artwork] because that really stood out to me,” Alli said.
The name of her piece is My Love for You Is Deathless.
Alli’s project was part of the advanced art class at Morrilton under teacher Lynne Rutz.
After a lot of research, Alli decided to represent the Civil War and constructed a 3-D canvas and painted a Civil War veteran.
On the Internet, she found copies of letters from soldiers, printed them and “made them look old with acrylic paint mixed with water,” Alli said.
The competition was Jan. 19, and Alli said Rutz told students they would receive a text message between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. giving the results.
Alli waited. And waited.
“I had heard nothing. I was already devastated, thinking I hadn’t won,” Alli said.
However, her teacher had received the news and texted Alli.
“She said we did receive first place and said it was my piece,” Alli said. “I was so ecstatic, so shocked, because I didn’t think I’d won anything.”
Alli said she was at home and told her mother, Londa Carroll, about her award.
“I went in there, and I was screaming. We even had a little happy-tears moment,” Alli said.
She was the only Morrilton student who received an award in the competition.
“Personally, I think the other people should have placed,” she said of her classmates.
Alli, who has four brothers and two sisters, said no one else in her family is artistic.
“My family is not creative,” she said with a laugh.
Alli said it wasn’t until 10th grade that she took her first art class, and Rutz was her teacher.
“I realized I enjoyed doing it,” Alli said. “I didn’t realize I was really that good.”
Was it natural talent or being taught?
“Obviously, there’s a little bit of natural talent, but Mrs. Rutz really, really helped me through the process of a lot of things,” Alli said.
Rutz called Alli a “very talented, accomplished artist” who has received accolades previously for her work.
“She usually works in acrylics but worked outside her comfort zone on her Thea Scholarship entry,” Rutz said.
She called Alli’s latest piece “a well-balanced, organized composition.”
“The Thea Scholarship competition is tough,” Rutz said. “Students from schools from around the state compete for this prestigious scholarship.
“Morrilton High School has been blessed to have some of the most talented students in the state.”
She said the past three first-place winners in the Thea Foundation visual-arts competition have been Morrilton students.
“It has provided the necessary funding for several students to continue their educations,” Rutz said.
That’s something Alli is excited about.
“College is really expensive,” she said.
Alli said she is considering attending the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
“I’m not absolutely positive, but I’m pretty sure that’s where I’ll end up. That’s where my heart is right now,” she said.
Some universities match the scholarship, including UCA, she said, “so that’s even better.”
Alli said she’s interested in a nursing career.
“I’m not sure that in college I’ll continue doing art. I know I’ll continue doing it on the side,” she said.
“Art will always be something I do for me, for fun.”
Her latest piece is on display in the Thea Foundation on Main Street in Little Rock, and she’ll attend a banquet in March, she said.
Two Conway High School students also placed in the competition. Seventh place went to Livia Pierce and 10th place to Grace Badger.
Each of those students received $2,000 scholarships.
The Thea Foundation was started by Thea’s parents, Paul and Linda Theopoulos.
According to its website, the mission of the Thea Foundation “is to advocate the importance of the arts in the development of our youth.”
More information is available at theafoundation.org.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.