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Pine Island senior wins Scholastic art award

February 10, 2019 GMT

PINE ISLAND — Ring up another Gold Key for Pine Island.

For the second straight year, a student from Pine Island 5-12 School won a Gold Key Award in the Scholastic Art & Writing competition.

This year’s winner, Talia Mentjes, a 17-year-old senior, submitted two pieces for the competition. Her drawing, “Self-Portrait,” collected a Gold Key in the Drawing and Illustration category. It was the only winning entry from Southeast Minnesota among several hundred Gold Key winners in Minnesota.


Last year, Sadie McMahan of Pine Island was one of two Gold Key winners in the region.

While this is Mentjes’ first Scholastic award — though she also won a Silver Key this year for a sculpture she’d submitted — she’s no stranger to winning art competitions. In middle school, she was honored three times in the Minnesota Junior Duck Stamp competition.

“It was a project we could do in art class in middle school,” Mentjes said. “I really liked it that one year, so I continued with it the next and the next.”

She remembers looking up photos of ducks on the internet to build a picture in her mind before drawing one of the fowls. Her favorite is the green-wing teal, a duck species she drew one year of the competition.

Mentjes’ memories of art go back years. Her mother, Nicole Mentjes, is the high school art teacher in Pine Island. Talia Mentjes recalls drawing with markers from an early age.

“Mainly just cartoons,” she said of her early work. “I wanted to be an animator. I made my own cartoon characters. “But I saw the work that goes into animation and it’s ridiculous.”

Today, she plans to go to school to study theater production. She wants to work in set design, props and costumes, something she was doing Thursday on a snow day to get ready for the school musical. She’d entered the contest, she said, to add a little something to her college applications.

Her mother said that while there are usually a couple of art contests a month for students to consider, most bypass the Scholastic competition because there is a $5 per entry fee.

“The one big thing is it costs,” Nicole Mentjes said. “My department can’t support it. The only one we support is the Minnesota State High School League competition.”

Nicole Mentjes said she was thrilled when she found out Monday that Talia had won. “I’ve seen the artwork coming out of that competiton, and it’s phenomenal,” she said. “I’m glad she took the time to put her artwork in. Especially when you’re in a small town, it’s good to see how your talent relates to others in the field from all over Minnesota.”


“Self-Portrait” is currently on display with other Gold Key winners from across the state at the Regis West Gallery at the Regis Center for the Arts at the University of Minnesota until Feb. 23, Nicole Mentjes said.

All the Gold Key winners will move onto the National Awards competition in New York, with winners being announced March 13.

“I have big hopes,” Talia Mentjes said. “But I saw some of the work there (at the University of Minnesota) and it was amazing.”