Mar 9, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff WriterStudents from Riverton High School were commissioned by the Wyoming Arts Council to create glass medallions to be featured at the 30th Governor's Arts Awards on Feb. 24.
Under the instruction of Marianne Vinich, who has been building a glass program at Riverton High School for the past 20 years, the art students made 87 medallions to serve as centerpieces for the awards ceremony.
Vinich decided the medallions should have a Wyoming theme and challenged the students to think about what makes the state beautiful.
"Everything about Wyoming is beautiful, and there are so many elements like wildflowers, state symbols, horses, sunsets, mountains and different sceneries that really needed to be showcased," Vinich said.
The students began working on the 8-inch medallions made of fused glass in August and continued working on them during each class time until a few weeks before the awards ceremony.
"The students really worked very hard on this project and gave up a lot of their personal class time because they felt it was such an honor to be showcased," Vinich said. "They really stuck with working on this project, and their work ethic is exemplary, which is why our work shines out in the state, and I am very proud of them."
Two of the medallions, designed by seniors Taylor Hunt and Danen Thornley, were presented to Gov. Matt Mead.
The medallions were decorated with the governor's favorite saying from his mother, Mary Mead: "Always ride the longest loop."
The medallions were also decorated with the governor's personal brand of horse and a Mead family brand. The governor has the medallions displayed in the governor's office at the state Capitol in Cheyenne.
"I really enjoyed making something that I knew the governor would enjoy, and it was really neat receiving a letter from him thanking me for the work I had put into making his medallion," Thornley said.
Karissa Kister designed a medallion that was selected for the center of the programs at the ceremony and was featured on the website of the Wyoming Arts Council.
"I decided to go with a theme of the Tetons, because I thought it would be cool and really exemplifies Wyoming," Kister said.
The centerpieces were originally available to anyone wanting to donate $40 or more to the Wyoming Arts Council, which would help purchase new glass and supplies for the Riverton High School glass art program.
Moneta Divide Project Lead for Encana Natural Gas Paul Ulrich felt the medallions were worth more than $40 and repurchased 87 medallions for $80 apiece. He donated the money to the glass art program and gave the medallions away to whoever wanted them.
"We are so thankful to him for his generous contribution, and we could not be more pleased with his kind gesture," Vinich said.
With the donated money, the program will purchase bench torches, a tool for working with glass that enables more intricate and advanced techniques in glass work. Vinich looks forward to being the only school in the state of Wyoming with such a program.
"Students that are able to have a bench torch to work with really opens up the possibilities, and it will change the art program into a phenomenal program for our students," Vinich said.
Vinich said she would like to thank the governor, the Wyoming Arts Council, the administration at Riverton High School and the students for all of their help with this project.
"This is a tremendous honor for our work to have been selected and showcased," Vinich said. "We are very appreciative, and I am very proud of my students for this accomplishment."