Boys and Girls Club holds art competition celebrating Black STEM icons

Alexa Pifefer/News Tribune
The Jefferson City Boys and Girls Club Cheir Executive Officer, Wade Middaugh presents the Black History Month contest art gallery to the St Mary's Hospital Cafe. The public is asked to vote for their favorite piece, and the students will be given awards from US Cellular.
Alexa Pifefer/News Tribune The Jefferson City Boys and Girls Club Cheir Executive Officer, Wade Middaugh presents the Black History Month contest art gallery to the St Mary's Hospital Cafe. The public is asked to vote for their favorite piece, and the students will be given awards from US Cellular.

Chemistry is not Raeden Smith's favorite subject, but she spent months drawing a renowned chemist.

Smith, a fifth-grader and a member of the Railton Center at the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, is one of 10 finalists for the club's annual Black History Month Art Contest.

Smith drew a portrait of biochemist Marie Maynard Daly, the first African American woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in chemistry. Later, she made significant contributions to the research on enzymes and the effects of cholesterol on arteries, according to the American Chemistry Society website.

Smith noticed the scientist because she was not included in the book the club gave contestants to choose for their portrait subject last year. To prepare for her drawing, she researched facts about Daly and several of her images, Smith said.

"I decided (Daly) would be a good and fun person to draw and create, especially with the backstory of her history,"Smith said. "I thought that she was a smart person."

This marks the eighth year the local Boys & Girls Club has participated in the nationwide Black History Month Art Contest, Chief Executive Officer Wade Middaugh said.

The competition theme is Black STEM icons, according to a news release from the sponsor. Middaugh presented the finalists and their artworks Thursday afternoon at St. Mary's Hospital, 2505 Mission Drive.

For the whole month of February, the pieces will stay on display at the hospital, SSM Health Regional President K.C. DeBoer said. Community members ages 18 and older can vote for their favorite drawing until Feb. 15. The three contestants with the most votes will receive gift cards of $250, $150 and $100.

The winner will then advance to the national round of the contest to compete with winners from clubs across the country. The three contestants with the most votes nationally will receive an additional $250, while their clubs will get a $1,500 donation.

"We need everyone to vote and vote often," Middaugh said. "We want this one to come home to our club."

Representatives from the local club and contest sponsor UScellular chose the finalists from around 50 Jefferson City contestants, Middaugh said. They range from elementary-school age to high-schoolers. The local club has been part of this contest to get its members more exposed to Black history.

"It's really great for the kids to compete, to get to show their artistic side," Middaugh said. "But far and away, the most important reason is they get to take time to really research all of these leaders."

Unlike previous years, where the finalists were displayed at a UScellular store, the club chose to exhibit the 10 drawings at the hospital instead. DeBoer said this is a great opportunity to show off the work students do, as well as the hospital's commitment to be a part of the community.

"It's really special this year because they focus on Black icons who have a STEM background, and many of the careers here are STEM-based, so it ties really well with what we do here from a health care standpoint," he said.

The hospital has already let its staff members know about the art contest and encouraged them to vote for their favorite piece. DeBoer said he definitely would be voting.

"I'm looking for who really tried to capture the essence of the icon that they chose to draw," he said.

photo Alexa Pifefer/News Tribune The students of the Jefferson City Boys and Girls club display their art projects in competition for the Black History Month Art contest at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital. The art pieces feature prominent black leaders in STEM.
photo Alexa Pifefer/News Tribune SSM Health Regional President, K.C DeBoer welcomes the Jefferson City Boys and Girls Club art gallery to the St Mary's Hospital Cafe. The public is asked to vote for their favorite piece, and the students will be given awards from US Cellular.
photo Alexa Pifefer/News Tribune The students of the Jefferson City Boys and Girls club view the display of art projects in competition for the Black History Month Art contest at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital. The art pieces feature prominent black leaders in STEM.