Three towering figures

Glendale News Press

High school art teachers in Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena are soaring with pride following their students receiving awards in the annual Bob Hope Airport Student Art Tower Banner Contest.

Each year the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority invites high school students from all three cities to enter the contest. This year's theme was "The Joy of Flight."

The school districts pick the top three finalists, who then go to the respective cities' arts commissions for judging the first, second and third places, said Lucy Burghdorf, community relations manager for the Bob Hope Airport.

The three first-place winners are made into banners that measure 17 feet by 26 feet and are hung on the tower — visible to tens of thousands of airport visitors every day, Burghdorf said. Each is given a turn on the tower for at least two months.

"What we do with the second- and third- and first-place winners is create a beautiful display in the Terminal A hallway with an explanation of what the project is about," Burghdorf said.

The airport authority also gives each school district $2,500 to enhance and promote arts programs, which are often the most vulnerable to funding cuts, she said.

"It's win-win. We get to hang art that has a correlation to aviation, we're helping the schools, and the kids get to see their art hanging on the tower," Burghdorf said.

"Where else can kids have their art on something where millions of people come through? We have done it for three years and have received nothing but praise from community teachers."

Students have consistently won during the last three years from the art class of Crescenta Valley High School teacher Sarah Wiggins.

Her students won first and third places two years before. This year, one of her students took second place.

"I think it's tremendous," Wiggins said about the competition. "I think it gives validation and exposure to students' work."

A lot of contests offer a monetary award, but the exposure is unique in this contest, she said.

"Exposure is what being an artist is about — getting their message out there," Wiggins said.

"For them to be able to do that on the high school level where millions get to see their work — it's exciting."

James Bentley, a photo and video teacher at Burbank High School, used the funds received from his student winners last year on so-called infrastructure items, such as bouncing reflector boards for the camera gear.

"That money goes a long way in these tight budget times," he said.

"The funds are not for the foundation of my program . . . but all the students in all of my classes."

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