Max Cullipher jumped almost three feet in the air at the sound of his name being called for a first-place prize in a visual arts contest.
The North Augusta Arts and Heritage Center held an open contest for photos of nature at its Brick Pond Park. Featuring a youth division for 8-15 year olds and an additional adult category, the Aiken Elementary third-grader took home the prize with a photo of a blue heron.
Lee Josey, Cullipher’s grandfather, helped introduce his grandson to photography and bird watching.
“I kind of gave him all the basics and taught him how to handle the camera and some of the settings he could use and he really went with it and I thought that he was certainly excelling for someone at his age,” Josey said. “I am very close to him and we had a lot of fun and we have been all over the place taking pictures of birds.”
Over the past year, the two have taken day trips to several Georgia and South Carolina nature reserves to identify birds and bond over photography. They were clued into the contest through a fellow church member who helped organize Cullipher’s entry.
Mary Anne Bigger, executive director for the Arts and Heritage Center, was thrilled to see youth involvement in the arts.
“We love to have the youth involved in any of our activities but this was especially important because the Brick Ponds are so popular and so important to North Augusta,” Bigger said.
“Oh gosh when they called his name, he jumped three feet high with his arms up and he was so excited,” Josey recalled. “They called the first place last and when they called his name, he got so excited and it was a wonderful moment for me as well as for him.”
Garland Gooden, a volunteer curator for the Arts and Heritage Center, welcomes the influx of talent. He said they plan to expand the competition exhibition next year.
“I am so pleased that the kids have responded to the show and I am hoping next year we are going to have an even greater response,” Gooden said.
“Those things are things that I love and I wanted to get him interested in something that I knew a good bit about and since we are so close, it really thrilled me that he was taking interest in something that I enjoyed,” Josey said. “It’s something that will build a closer bond between the two of us and I just love taking him out and taking pictures and enjoying the time with him and having that kind of influence on me.”
The Brick Pond Park photography contest artwork is open to the public through Feb. 2 on the second floor balcony in the Arts and Heritage Center. In addition, the Eyes Wide Open art gallery will be on display through Feb. 2.
Samantha Winn covers the cities of North Augusta and Augusta, with a focus on community oriented business and events. Follow her on Twitter: @samanthamwinn and on Facebook and Instagram: @swinnnews.