ELEANOR MERRITT

Youths honored for practicing healthy art

By S. Landsky   Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

srq herald

During an awards ceremony Nov. 8 at the North Sarasota Library, the Multicultural Health Institute-Alta Vista Health Fest presented 15 students with awards for their efforts in creating artwork depicting healthy eating around the world. The top three winners were Anthony Gutierrez, who was awarded "Best in Show;" Kaitlyn Freeman, who won the "Best Creative Still Life" award; and Sama Diba Younis, for the "Best Watercolor." The winners were presented certificates from local artist and judge Eleanor Merritt-Darlington. "The judges had a tough job judging the work; many of the pieces were really exciting, unique and original," Merritt-Darlington said. "The children have shown their commitment and enthusiasm on this project." Alta Vista art teacher Cassandra Whitehead also presented first-, second- and third-place awards to students in her art classes.

Among the winners present at the celebration were Diamond Thompson, Lara Noureddine, Juana Diego-Leon, Sh'miyah Murray, Rickie Riddle IV and Juan Hernandez-Garza. "The students took what they learned about the different cultures and incorporated it into their pieces, using colors, space and details," Whitehead said. The educational arts project was a collaboration between Alta Vista Elementary and the Multicultural Health Institute, a Sarasota-based nonprofit, to teach students the importance of healthy eating, diet, exercise and about healthy foods from around the world. Using resources at the North Sarasota Library, students researched geography, healthy foods and eating habits of different cultures to create works of art representing what they learned during the project. "We wanted to do a project that incorporates children learning about health, nutrition, exercise, and all things that we need to do to be well," the MHI executive director, Dr. Lisa Merritt, said. "The children worked hard on this project, taking what they learned and creatively expressing it through art."

In addition to individual art projects, the celebration recognized six students chosen to create a collaborative mural depicting "Healthy Harvests Around the World." The mural was presented at this year's Chalk Festival. Sama Diba Younis, Monique Williams, Wesley Tunstall, Luis Gonzalez, Elena Figueroa and Reinaldo Perez worked together with two local artists, Todd Berrien and Merritt-Darlington, along with Whitehead. These students were selected to work on the mural because of their artistic talents, their ability to work together, and their expressed desire to be involved," Alta Vista Principal Dr. Barbara Shirley said. The mural is currently at the North Sarasota Library, but will be permanently displayed at the Sarasota elementary school. A group of fourth-grade art students from Alta Vista Elementary received honors for their artistic talents.