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story.lead_photo.caption MOMA, The Jefferson City Museum of Modern Art. photo by Jim Dyke (using iphone 8 plus camera)

Thornton Dial once said "my art is evidence of my freedom."

He is known as a pioneering African-American artist whose body of work includes expressive pieces composed of assembled materials that deliver a powerful, moving message.

Schoolchildren often visit the Jefferson City Museum of Modern Art, which showcases works from Dial and another prominent modern artist, Purvis Young, as part of its permanent collection. Now, museum administrators want to encourage children to create their own original artwork.

The Jefferson City Museum of Modern Art's inaugural art contest allows Jefferson City area students in fifth through eighth grades "To Be Free," a theme for their original art submissions.

"Freedom was a big deal to those artists (whose work is at Jefferson City Museum of Modern Art), and the contest hopefully will inspire the students 'to be free' with their own art," said Jennifer Milne, museum docent and retired Jefferson City educator.

Chris Duren, a museum docent who also helps manage the museum, said this is the first contest they have hosted and its theme encourages creativity, much like the inspiring art displayed at the museum.

"Most of our artists featured have come up through different struggles and adversity, showing students, 'Look what you can do if you don't give up.' We want the kids to think outside the box and think creatively. You can still choose art and do art with whatever you have," Duren said, giving a nod to Dial's artwork.

Submissions can be of any size or using any art medium, and will be accepted electronically through Friday by registering at the museum's website, JCMOMA.com. Finalists' original artwork will be on display at the Jefferson City Museum of Modern Art at 6 p.m. April 3-4, where the public is invited along with the artists and their families and friends.

Final judging will take place on the morning of April 5. Special guest judges and artists Sam Bushman, Jim Dyke and Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin will determine the winners. First place wins $500, and five $100 honorable mentions will be awarded.

With submissions filing in for this contest, Duren is encouraged the Jefferson City Museum of Modern Art could hold additional opportunities for local modern artists in the future.

"We are hoping this will go well and be able to duplicate it for other age groups," she said. "We are trying to take baby steps, first offering it to fifth- through eighth-grade students throughout the Jefferson City area.

"We hope this is a stepping stone for future opportunities."

For more information or to register for the contest, call 573-635-1114 or visit JCMOMA.com.

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