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Young W.Va. artists recognized for Google doodles

Click here to see a gallery of Doodle 4 Google winners and finalists.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ten-year-old Devin Elliott of Charleston anxiously stared at Google's home page throughout last week, constantly reloading the site awaiting the results of the 2012 Doodle 4 Google contest winners.

To her surprise, her own entry was featured along with four other West Virginia finalists chosen from more than 114,000 entries nationwide who redesigned the Google website logo with the theme "If I could travel in time, I'd visit ..."

Devin, a home-schooled fifth-grader who chose the theme ancient Egypt, said she knew the contest was for her as soon as she heard about it.

"I read about the competition, and I knew that moment that I wanted to do it," she said. "I'm really into all types of art -- drawing, acting, singing, dancing. It's always been a really positive atmosphere for me whenever I do it, and my family supports it. It's a lot of fun."

Alisa P., 13, of Morgantown, was named the state winner with her redesign inspired by Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations." She won a trip to New York, and her work is displayed at the New York Public Library with other state winners. (Google did not release the last names of the winners.)

Besides Devin, other West Virginia finalists include Blake L., 9, of Huntington with a "Googlestoric" piece; Gaetano F., 13, of Weirton with a World War II-inspired piece and Andrea S., 17, of Charles Town with a medieval theme.

Dylan Hoffman, a second-grader from Wisconsin, was named the national winner, receiving $80,000 in scholarships and computer grants.

The contestants were divided by age group, ranging from kindergarten students to high school seniors, and were judged on artistic merit, creativity and theme communication by a panel of Google employees, according to the site.

The West Virginia winners and five additional "special doodlers" from the state were recognized Tuesday at the Huntington Museum of Art, where their artwork will be on display for the next four weeks.

"Hanging the pieces on display in an actual museum is a big deal. It takes it to a whole new level," said Margaret Mary Layne, executive director of the Huntington Museum of Art. "It gives these kids the credibility they deserve. This level of creativity belongs here."

Google often temporarily changes the logo on its search engine website to honor birthdays of well-known people and anniversaries of important events.

Layne said she is honored that a company like Google chose the museum to showcase the pieces.

"They felt that our mission of fostering creativity in children was parallel to their mission of the project, and it was really heartening to have a vote of confidence from a giant like Google," Layne said. "We've been promoting the positive impact of creativity in children for 60 years, and now so many other levels of our world are recognizing the importance of that -- even Internet giants. It feels really good."

She said while the state has struggled to provide funding for adequate art programs, the Huntington Museum of Art has stepped up to compensate -- serving 20,000 children a year.

"It's not that West Virginians don't value art, but we're always struggling from a financial standpoint. The museum has resources and professionals that schools can't have. In a sense, we're a corporate citizen, and we want to fill the gaps," Layne said.

Layne said inclusion in nationwide programs like these not only benefits West Virginia youth, but the state as a whole.

"Sometimes West Virginia is underrepresented, and it's good to encourage our children to compete on every level because they're very worthy. Achievement through this competition builds self-esteem, and every kid needs that to succeed in the world," she said. "It brings national attention to the creativity of children -- not trained, educated artists. It's about the creativity that lies within all of us, and that's so important."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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