By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
CAREY — For the second time, artists at Art Connections in Carey have taken the top prize in the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Paint a Plow contest.
According to an ODOT news release, Art Connections, a leg of Angeline Industries, was voted the overall choice award winner in this year’s competition.
“I was so excited,” said Amber Kahler, art director at Art Connections, in an email. “I feel it was well deserved with all the planning and work that went into this project.”
The colorful painting combines pop art with a comic book style, she said. While there are snowflakes in the scene, the character is thinking about spring and has flowers reflected in her sunglasses.
Employees at ODOT District 1 voted for the best plow design at the district’s roadeo event held May 2. Crestview High School came in second, and McComb High School and Miller City High School tied for third place. Apollo Career Center in Lima won the people’s choice award, which was decided based on social media votes.
In all, 21 schools across the eight counties in District 1 competed. The decorated blades will be attached to trucks and used to plow snow next winter.
The nonprofit Art Connections previously took the contest’s top spot in 2015.
Kahler explained that Art Connections is an industry of Angeline School and Industries in Upper Sandusky, and its mission is to teach, market and sell its employees’ artwork. The organization began in 2009 in a garage at Angeline, the employment services arm of the Wyandot County Board of Developmental Disabilities. It moved to its current location at 205 S. Vance St., Carey, in late 2011.
The artists are not students, but rather their time at the studio is work, as Art Connections is considered a “dayhab.” Kahler said the artists are paid for their efforts.
In all, 12 artists were involved in planning and painting the blade.
“We all sat down and we all planned it out together,” she said. “We hadn’t done pop art in a long time. And one of my artists, Lisa, she likes to draw comic girls and strong girls like Wonder Woman.”
Upon learning of the win, Kahler said the artists were “grinning from ear to ear and jumping up and down. They were so happy and appreciative that we were chosen.”
ODOT delivered the plow blade to a lot behind the studio, where the artists “were able to knock it out in, like, three days,” she said.
Kahler drew the outline, then delegated jobs to the artists that wanted to participate. They used both latex and enamel paint to color the design.
Held annually since 2014, the contest allows high schools and vocational schools within the district to paint a snowplow blade with a message of school spirit, Ohio pride, patriotism or safety.
“We’re glad to see that communities continue to embrace this opportunity to display their schools’ spirit, values and creative talent,” said Kirk Slusher, deputy director of ODOT District 1. “Our area has been blessed with the talent to make our fleet a bit more colorful year after year, and this year’s contestants clearly gave it their all. It was a tight race.”
County garage employees chose their favorite entry from their respective counties to go forward to the final round of judging for the overall choice award, as voted by all employees at the roadeo. In addition to Art Connections representing Wyandot County, area county winners included McComb High School in Hancock County, Hardin Northern High School in Hardin County and Miller City High School in Putnam County.
Other participating area schools were Cory-Rawson, Leipsic, Continental, Ottawa-Glandorf, Pandora and Gilboa.
The Art Connections artists have painted murals at the swimming pool at Carey Memorial Park and at Angeline. They’ve also made art for local businesses and trophies for a color run. An art auction is held annually to help with costs. Kahler also gives presentations about the program and is scheduled to speak at the Wyandot County Museum at 7 p.m. June 28.
The public can visit the artists in action from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The shop remains open for sales of their art until 4:30 p.m. Among the items offered for sale are pieces of painted fabric that have been sewn into tote bags by volunteer seamstresses. The totes have become the organization’s “signature product.” The artists also create jewelry, candles, vases, wall art, religious art and rag rugs that are loomed on site.
The artists are involved with the promotion and marketing of the studio, too.
“Art Connections is about art but also connections, connecting them to the community. So they’re not just in the community, but a part of the community,” she said.
Kahler counts herself lucky to be working with the program and said she gets to use her imagination to come up with art based on whatever donations come in from the public.
“Any type of paint, any type of material, we try to use it,” she said.
For example, old bowling balls can be painted to become lawn ornaments that look like bumble bees and lady bugs, she said.
“I tell people, ‘Just send me your stuff and I’ll figure out what to do with it,'” she laughed.
Donations of art supplies including any size canvases, larger frames, paint, bowling balls, wine corks and fabric are especially needed. People interested in serving as seamstresses, community artists and art buddies are also encouraged to volunteer.
Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf