APOLLO BEACH — Terrena Conson's days are filled with teaching at a middle school and caring for her young son. So, she doesn't get much free time to draw for fun.
But the Beth Shields Middle School art teacher found a few hours to dabble on a drawing to enter into the 22nd annual Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts T-shirt Competition.
Conson submitted her entry and went on with her busy life.
She was stunned after learning the colorful drawing she made of a lone manatee won the big award.
"This is an honor," said the 31-year-old Apollo Beach resident. "This is amazing."
Like most kids, Conson dabbled with crayons and markers. But by about age 10, she became a little more serious about her artwork. She sought art as an elective in school. Teachers noticed her work too.
"They complimented me on my drawings," she said.
Conson earned a degree in art education from Florida State University in 2004. For the last several years, she has worked as an ESE specialist at East Bay High School.
She enjoyed the job but moved to Shields in Ruskin when the art teacher position opened up. Shields had gone without an art teacher for a few years.
"I'm loving finally teaching it," she said.
The kids are happy too. About 125 want art as an elective next year. There will be more students when the incoming sixth-graders pick their electives in August.
"They're really loving it," Conson said. "They're soaking it up."
Conson's hectic schedule of juggling teaching and caring for son Bryce, 3, is even a little crazier right now.
As the contest winner, Conson's manatee drawing will be featured on T-shirts sold at the 22nd annual Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts this weekend. Conson won $100 and earned a free booth at the festival. She is in overdrive working on drawings to sell at her booth on Saturday and Sunday.
Conson will also have to find time to pick up more than a few T-shirts featuring her manatee drawing. Family and friends scattered all over the country are begging for one.
"I hope they made lots of T-shirts," she said, laughing.
Melanie Morrison, executive director of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, said Conson is one of about 85 artists and artisans, from the area and out of state, who will be at the arts and crafts show.
In addition to the arts and crafts show at the Tampa Electric South Shore Community Events Center, guests can enjoy musical acts and see the manatees, which winter in the warm waters at TECO Energy's power station at the end of Big Bend Road.
Morrison said the festival is always packed with patrons because it includes good art and good times. It's also, she said, "a nice way to showcase the community."
Master potter Gary Malone enjoys Apollo Beach's annual arts festival and says it seems the crowd likes him too.
Malone, a Massachusetts resident, who winters in nearby Pine Island in Lee County, will make his fourth appearance at the festival this weekend.
"It's always fun," he said.
Malone said festival patrons praise his pottery work and often request one of his shrimp cocktail servers, table-top fountains, nacho and salsa bowls or fan-shaped sponge/soap holders.
Malone, who runs a successful gallery in his hometown of Sturbridge, Mass., said much of his work fits the functional category, but he also makes vases and other eye-appealing pottery.
Malone, 61, said his work is popular in Massachusetts as well as Florida.
"I sell a lot of pottery," he said. "They like my stuff."
Monica Bennett can be reached at [email protected]