“Art is an important part of life, because without art, life is kind of boring,” according to 16-year-old Cabe Copeland.

Copeland, a student at J.H. Rose High School, was among young artists from across Pitt County on Monday recognized by the Pitt County Board of Education for their participation in the Margaret L. Blount Memorial Art Competition Art Competition.

Copeland won Honorable Mention for a self-portrait titled “Lost in Tokyo.” It was his second year to enter the competition, which included 60 entries from the six traditional Pitt County high schools.

The competition has been held for at least 20 years in memory of Blount, an ardent supporter of the varts in the school system, according to Jane Behan, Pitt County Schools’ arts education programs director.

Artwork is first juried by teachers at the school level, who send pieces to the school system’s central office, where it is then judged by two professional artists. Eight came from Ayden-Grifton, 14 from South Central, 20 from D.H. Conley, 11 from J.H. Rose, five from North Pitt and two from Farmville Central.

Sean Shoobridge of Rose won first place, Ian Brown of Rose won second place, Jana Palmiter of South Central won third place and Autumn Avery of Rose won fourth place. Several students received honorable mention recognitions.

“The fact these students had work that was brought to the county office by the teachers speaks volumes about their confidence in their talents and abilities,” Behan said.

“The adjudicators look at the originality of the piece, the technical proficiency of the piece, then the individual expression,” she said. “When they see someone that exceeds expectations, they can really recognize it.”

She said students benefit from the competition in many ways.

“This is treated like a professional show,” said Behan. “The student’s artwork is being looked at by professional artists. And it is wonderful for the students to see other artwork of their peers.”

“It is also exciting for the teachers because it gives them a unifying thing they do on an annual basis,” Behan added.

All the art will be on display on the third floor of the Pitt County Office Building, 1717 W. Fifth St., for an entire year.

The two jurors, who remain anonymous, are working artist and former art educators.

“They understand the developmental process of a high schooler,” Behan said.

The art is blind-judged, meaning no one knows the age, the school or the student when the judges come through.

South Central Visual Arts teacher Robyn Barnes, said the value of the competition is tremendous.

“We don’t have a lot of opportunity to show these children off and the talent they have and what they can do. Anytime there is a juried show for the kids to participate in and compete in, is tremendous. This is a confidence-boost for them — knowing their piece was chosen out of all the classes the teachers have,” she said. “And that people are actually going to see their art on display, behind glass — it is an amazing opportunity for them.”

Gael Storey, also a visual arts teacher at South Central, said this kind of competition teaches children how to critically think and problem-solve.

“You know how when we were kids we played outside and we built forts and used our imagination? On rain days we might do some arts and crafts because there wasn’t a lot to watch on television. It teaches them how to do stuff and figure things out,” she said.

Copeland’s mother Lynn, said she is grateful Pitt County recognizes students with all types of talents.

“There are athletics, and there is art, and music,” she said. “This is what my children excel in, and it is nice they can be recognized for that.”

J.H. Rose High School visual arts teacher Daniel Niece said, “I think it is important for them to see their art on display in an important building in the county. And that they can speak to the board directly.”

Next semester he is teaching art through technology.

“Not only will they be able to be creative and come up with ideas, but they will also be able to have technical skills that will help get them jobs, hopefully,” he said.

Students will learn things such as how to measure, how to do math and how to mix things together, “so they come out right,” he added. “It is good to have multiple skills, other than just being creative and having old school technology. I like to mix them both together.”

Pitt County Schools Superintendent Ethan Lenker said, “We are really proud of the work the students put into this — the time and the dedication — the students and the teachers have put toward this. I am envious of the talent. It truly is amazing,” he said.